As of yesterday, the Near North District School Board (NNDSB) “has run out of N95 masks for staff,” explained Rob Hammond, the president of the Near North Teacher’s Local of the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario.
The board still has supplies of medical grade masks for staff, “however, against Omicron, the N95s are your best defence,” Hammond said, noting his union has been asking for N95 masks be sent to school boards since the beginning of the pandemic.
Schools reopened on January 17, and the NNDSB was provided 14,000 N95 masks before staff and students returned. The board had requested 40,000, Hammond said.
He added that 14,000 is a lot of masks, but at “one mask per person per day” within each of the 34 schools in the board’s district, that number was “enough to last the board for eight days, and now we’ve run out.”
“We’re the first ones to report running out” of N95 masks, he said.
Hammond mentioned yesterday the board put in an order for masks, and he confirmed this morning that last night, around 10 o’clock, he heard the news from the government that they would be sending more masks to the board today.
Empty shelves where the N95 masks should be is not a sight Hammond wants to get used to. When “we don’t know when the orders will be refilled, some of our members will have masks, others won’t once we run out.”
As of this morning, Hammond is unsure how many masks are on their way to the board, and they “haven’t got next month’s order yet.”
Hammond places blame for the inadequate supply solely on the province. “None of this is on the board, this is solely on Ford’s inept government.”
“It’s a huge miss, the government is striking out left, right, and centre on this,” he added. “They never thought any of this through.”
“Our members need to be safe,” Hammond emphasized, “and we need to have the kids in schools, and we need to do it safely.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.