The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) has written an open letter to Premier Doug Ford urging the mandating of N95 masks for healthcare professionals in the fight against COVID-19.
Writing “on behalf of 68,000 nurses and healthcare professionals on the front lines of Ontario’s response,” Vicki McKenna, RN, President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association emphasized the dire risks healthcare workers are faced with on a day-to-day basis.
Noting that the association had written a previous letter to Ford and the Chief Medical Officer of Health on November 26, McKenna urged the province to take more decisive action to recognize the threats of airborne transmission.
“Nurses and healthcare professionals can wait no longer as they continue to become infected with COVID-19 at record rates,” wrote McKenna. “It is surprising that a developed jurisdiction like Ontario is experiencing such devastation. It is not inevitable but is preventable.”
The devastation is real. Cases of COVID-19 infection among healthcare and other care staff have been significant, and earlier this month, there was another high-profile example of a nurse dying due to the virus.
The ONA letter urgently advised Ford and his government to update their directives and guidance to mandate precautions for airborne transmission. Key among the recommendations was that the use of N95 respirators for all nurses and healthcare professionals who come into contact with any suspected or positive COVID-19 carriers be mandated.
“Only N95 respirators, at a minimum, or other superior respirators, are designed to protect the wearer against aerosol-transmitted diseases,” stresses the letter. “Surgical masks do not protect against this mode of transmission… The pandemic began 10 months ago and despite persistent infection rates and consensus on aerosol transmission, the government has still failed to act. Nurses and health-care professionals will remember this moment in time as pivotal. I urge you to meaningfully recognize the gravity that lives are at risk by taking immediate action to mandate airborne level of precautions for nurses and health-care professionals.”
McKenna’s letter notes that the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recognized on November 4, 2020, that SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted by fine aerosols, as well as larger respiratory droplets. That consensus has been matched by communications from The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
This is just the latest call for Canada to wise up. On January 4, 363 scientists, occupational health specialists, engineers, physicians, and nurses from across the country called on the government and public health officials to further recognize airborne transmission of COVID-19 and to act accordingly.