Ontario just released new details about lifting mask mandates
Now that vaccine passports, capacity limits and other pandemic restrictions in Ontario are completely on their way out, residents are wondering when of the longest-running public health measures, the compulsory use of face coverings in public indoor spaces, will likewise be eliminated.
After Saskatchewan completely tossed its proof-of-vaccination and mask requirements earlier this month, many Ontarians called on our provincial government to do the same. And, it finally looks like we're getting closer to that end.
And though Premier Doug Ford just sped up our latest phased timeline to reopen after January's lockdown, his team had made it clear that mandatory masking — a potential end to which wasn't even mentioned in the reopening plan — would be here to stay for some time, and that the province had no intention to deviate from its original plan, nor to drop either restriction anytime soon.
"We will need to keep masking in place for just a little bit longer... this is an important layer of protection that will allow us to proceed with our reopening plan safely," Ford said of mask protocols earlier this month.
But, given that he changed his tune on the vaccine passport and announced its end on March 1, along with capacity and social gathering limits in all settings, many are wondering if his stance on masks will also be changing.
All of the measures are indeed ones that Ford has assured residents will only be temporary.
Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has spoken in recent days about the potential lifting of mask policies, saying last week that key health indicators have been improving dramatically and that the government will continue to monitor those data sets, as well as the ongoing availability of PCR testing, to make a decision on masking."
He also suggested that given the accelerated reopening timeline, masks could be gone as soon as two weeks after the onset of phase three, which would be 12:01 a.m. on March 15.
The health official also revealed new details in a press conference on Thursday about what the public can expect when that change does happen.
When pressed on the topic, Moore stated that unlike other aspects of reopening, masking protocols would not be repealed in a gradual, phased approach, but all at once for virtually all settings.
Ontario top Dr. Kieran Moore said he anticipated a review of the mask mandate will be done in the second or third week of March, allowing for data to be analyzed after the province lifts capacity limits and the proof of vaccination requirement next Tuesday.— Flora Lan (@FloraLan10) February 25, 2022
"We anticipate if we remove [masking] in the public sector we would do it simultaneously for the schools. That would seem to align, as the risk decreases, to do them together," he told reporters.
"We will be reviewing the masking on indoor public environments... If you're going to lift them in recreational facilities and other indoor facilities, it just makes sense to also do it simultaneously for the educational sector."
He added that masks may remain in certain settings deemed "high-risk" for potential spread, such as hospitals, long-term care homes and public transit, as places like the U.K. have done after reversing their masking orders in late January.
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