Ontario dropped most of the province’s mask mandates on Monday and plans to remove all remaining COVID-19 guidelines by the end of April.
The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr Kieran Moore, said improving health indicators such as lower hospitalizations and high vaccination rates made it possible for restrictions to be lifted, although Moore also added that testing limits mean the true daily COVID count is likely 10 times higher. than the declared number.
Toronto City Council voted March 9 to end Toronto’s own mask bylaw the same day the province ends its restrictions, in most public places, including schools.
This follows the lifting of capacity limits in all indoor public places and mandatory requirements for proof of vaccination – although some businesses may choose to continue to require proof.
Here’s what you need to know and what to expect.
March 21 — End of most masking warrants
• The province will remove masking requirements in most places, including schools
• Masks will still be required on public transportation, in long-term care facilities, nursing homes and other health care facilities, shelters, prisons and congregate care and living facilities, including homes for people with intellectual disabilities.
• Other measures in schools, including cohort and daily on-site screening, are discontinued
• All other regulatory requirements for businesses will be removed, including passive control and security plans
• Ontario will continue to provide rapid antigen tests and PPE to schools and businesses
• Individuals can continue to choose to wear masks
• Improved cleaning, optimization of air quality and ventilation and reporting of absences will remain in schools
April 27 — All remaining COVID measures, directives and orders will end
• Province will remove masking requirements in all remaining settings
• All remaining emergency orders under Ontario’s Reopening Act will expire
• All remaining directives will be lifted
• Province will continue to follow Chief Medical Officer of Health direction and Infection Protection and Control Canada (IPC) recommendations, including the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
• Province will continue to provide rapid antigen testing and PPE
How do people react?
Some, including education practitioners and health experts, would have liked to see the province delay its decision to lift mask mandates. Others say the decision was hastened by an impending provincial election.
Universities across the province plan to keep mask mandates in place until the end of the winter term, ‘to minimize uncertainty and disruption and continue to support our students, staff and faculty’ , according to a press release from the Council of Ontario Universities.
“It seems really premature,” said Karen Brown, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO). “Unfortunately, it looks like the fast approaching June election is influencing politicians’ decisions to lift COVID-19 related security measures.”
“Lifting the mask mandate too soon can result in further disruption to in-person learning and negative health and safety impacts for ETFO members, students and their families,” Brown continued.
Dr Peter Juni, scientific director of the scientific advisory table, said it would help keep the pandemic under control if “most people” continued to wear masks by default for the next month or so.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said Ontarians should make an “individual assessment, recognizing that the risk remains, but that we are well past peak activity in Ontario and need to learn to live with this virus.”
In the meantime, he encouraged people to be kind to those who choose to continue wearing masks and said he would personally continue to wear one in a busy mall or big box store. Moore also “strongly recommended” that vulnerable people continue to mask up.
A coalition of children’s hospitals issued a joint statement last week saying: ‘We would have preferred if the masks were kept in place for two weeks after the March break so that we could assess the impact of a wider reopening of Ontario.”
“Masks remain an important layer of protection as the pandemic continues and may be needed in communities where vaccination rates are low and there is an increase in cases,” the statement read.
The organization notes that while everyone wants COVID to be a thing of the past, and not their children’s everyday experiences, “we’re not there yet.
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