High rates of absenteeism has GECDSB considering mask mandates

While masks are no longer required at many indoor settings some are taking matters into their hands, at least one local school board is considering bringing in its own mandate.

The Greater Essex County District School Board will discuss the possibility during its meeting on Tuesday.

“School boards should institute a masking policy. It is one measure. It is one component of trying to attenuate the increasing burden of disease,” Windsor-Essex acting medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai said during an update last week.

A week ago, Ontario’s chief medical officer highly recommended wearing a mask indoors but stopped short of a full mandate.

“If the medical officer of health thinks it’s going to curb absenteeism then I think it’s probably a good idea because since March Break we have just been getting slammed,” said Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) District 9 president Erin Roy.

Roy says in the last couple of weeks, absenteeism has been at an all-time pandemic high and that is causing stress on staff.

“X number of people away,” she said. “The people that are remaining have to pick up the extra slack and then they’re getting exhausted.”

Roy says it’s been a cyclical trend of staff coming and going.

“If it’s going to help with the absenteeism then I think we have an obligation to try,” she said.

Metrics show the level of COVID in the region’s waste water broke a record high late last week.

“Since the masking things have been lifted we can all say we’ve heard of more people getting sick. We all know somebody now that has had it,” said Cramdon’s restaurant owner Don MacPherson.

Businesses CTV News spoke with said they will follow public health guidance if masks are mandated once again.

“If it stops us from further restrictions or anything like that they would definitely conform for sure,” MacPherson said.

Some continue to recommend wearing masks and some customers continue to wear one.

“Because it’s so transmissible that even if it’s mild I don’t want to take a chance of getting long-COVID,” said resident Barb Kennedy. “That would be very bad.”

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