omicron ba2 ontario toronto

Anger grows as infections rise just one week after Ontario lifts mask mandate

Ontario has had the option to go mask-free in many public indoor settings since 12:01 a.m. on Mar. 21, but only a week into the long-awaited lifting of the face covering mandate, there are already some alarming signs that we might be headed back into the danger zone.

Schools, shopping malls, restaurants, grocery stores, bars, and gyms are among some of the places you can now freely spew moisture out of your face holes, though masking rules remain in effect for a selection of high-risk settings that include public transit and hospitals.

Ontario's government had been under growing pressure to relax restrictions after 17 months of fogged glasses and damp faces, but some are speaking out about the timing of the move, coinciding with the rise of the troubling new BA.2 Omicron subvariant that already has case counts and hospitalizations spiking in Europe and Asia.

Echoing the province's move, Toronto City Council voted to end its own mask mandate as well, despite the warning signs emerging overseas.

Though widely welcomed, some people were calling the end of the mandate premature from day one, calls that have only been growing louder in the face of rising case counts that seem to correlate with last week's Great Unmasking.

Among those voicing concerns about the rollback of the mask mandate, one kindergarten teacher expressed frustration and anger towards Ontario premier Doug Ford and minister of education Stephen Lecce after testing positive just days after her class was allowed to go maskless.

The tweet has spurred several responses from others in similar situations that they feel could have been prevented by delaying the elimination of the mask mandate.

It's affecting teachers, students, and even school bus drivers who are forced to share enclosed spaces with unmasked and often unvaccinated (vaccines are only administered ages five and up) children.

And it isn't just anecdotal evidence supporting fears of a new wave, with Toronto's wastewater surveillance program detecting an increase in the virus in wastewater samples from Feb. 20 to Mar. 21.

Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the science advisory table, has suggested that wastewater data points to "early signs of a resurgence," though he clarified in an interview with the CBC that the new subvariant is unlikely to cause the same strain on the health care system seen during the worst of the pandemic.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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