Hanes: Isn’t protecting our children a good reason to start wearing masks again? – Montreal newspaper | Team Cansler

When COVID first emerged, we wore masks to protect our grandparents. Don’t children deserve the same attention now that the virus is hitting them hard?

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Duty to our elders has been one of the main reasons why, during previous waves of the pandemic, we have been urged to follow public health rules, most of which have been mandatory.

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We wore masks, followed curfews, canceled Christmas, refrained from socializing, worked remotely, closed bars, closed restaurants, pushed kids into longer periods of online learning, and rolled up our sleeves to slow a virus that’s causing… seniors appeared to be particularly dangerous. We did our part to save dear grandma and grandpa from COVID-19.

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But how far are we willing to go to protect children now that they appear to be suffering the unexpected effects of a pandemic approaching its third anniversary?

Season 3, Wave 8 has a new plot twist in the form of a three-headed monster: a triple threat of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza. And this time, it’s children who are very vulnerable — either because they weren’t exposed to these viruses in their young lives or because of “immunity stealing,” a new term in the lexicon of a mutating virus that experts are still struggling to understand.

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Whatever the explanation, increasing numbers and sicker children are overwhelming emergency departments across the country. Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario described the situation as “unprecedented” and announced it had established a second pediatric intensive care unit and transferred staff from surgical units.

Doctors at Montreal Children’s Hospital and the Center hospitalier universitaire Ste-Justine have commented on the onslaught of so many critically ill young patients on an already strained healthcare system. Two weeks ago, the director of the Ste-Justine pediatric emergency room described the situation as “a horror movie.”

On Sunday, Quebec’s Collège des médécins urged the public to start wearing masks again because of the “worrying” rise in respiratory illnesses in children. The body represents doctors but has no power to make public health regulations.

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On the same day, Ontario Premier Doug Ford also suggested people in his province wear face coverings, while Ontario’s chief medical officer of health on Monday strongly recommended a return to masking. Both Ford and his advisor are the two people in Ontario who have the authority to require people to put on masks. Significantly, both stopped abruptly.

Don’t expect much better in Quebec. Announcing emergency response measures this month to deal with the emergency in the province’s emergency departments, Quebec Minister of Health Christian Dubé and National Director of Public Health Dr. Luc Boileau, vague if they would reintroduce mask requirements as part of that effort. On Monday, the Department of Health and Social Care told my colleague Jesse Feith they were “concerned” about respiratory viruses that are affecting so many children, noting that masks were “recommended” as a tried and tested preventive measure.

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There appears to be no political appetite to bring back anything compelling, even from leaders who recently won re-election with landslide victories. And the independent health experts have so far avoided giving politicians advice that would force their hands. “Highly Recommended” is as serious as it gets.

So it’s up to us to protect children now.

And masking is an effective way to do it – if we can bother – along with flu shots and booster shots. We get it, nobody misses covering our faces at the grocery store. It was a pandemic-related nuisance that we were relieved to see lifted.

But what do we owe our children – who have sacrificed their schooling, extracurricular activities and, in some cases, their mental health during previous lockdowns? They also wore masks at school, both for teachers and staff and for their own safety.

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While it seems it’s little ones who are most likely to need hospitalization, anecdotal reports suggest the bugs roaming around are brutal, with other parents saying they’ve never seen their children this sick, even if they don’t need urgent medical care supply needed . To make matters worse, store shelves are empty of painkillers and fever medicine for children, a shortage that has lasted for months, while a simple antibiotic is in short supply. Big.

As we often tell kids, just because we don’t like something — like eating our veggies and going to bed on time — doesn’t mean it’s not good for us. It’s the same with masks, only it’s just as much about protecting others as it is about taking care of ourselves.

This is the lesson the pandemic should have taught us by now, but the one that seems the hardest for us to grasp as the desire for normalcy has put freedom first.

ahanes@postmedia.com

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