ontario mask mandate end

Rage and relief flood the internet as Ontario finally lifts mask mandate

Ontario's long-running, widespread mask mandate is now (for the most part) a thing of the past — but critics say there's no guarantee that it won't be a part of our futures, especially if COVID-19 numbers explode like they did the last time restrictions were lifted. Or the time before that. Or any of the other times before that.

As of 12:01 a.m. this morning, March 21, Ontarians are no longer required by law to wear face coverings inside schools, shopping malls, restaurants, grocery stores, bars, gyms, or anywhere else, save for a handful of high-risk settings that include public transit and hospitals.

Toronto City Council voted to end its own mask mandate as well, in concert with the provincial government on March 21.

This marks the closest return to "normal" many people have experienced in more than 17 months, when the Ford government first implemented a mandatory face mask policy for the entire province.

Some are stoked to go shopping again without fogged-up glasses and the constant threat of maskne, but just as many seem to be nervous — irate, even — about the lifting of this particular restriction.

Critics say that the move is premature and will lead to senseless deaths.

It was just a few weeks ago, after all, that we ditched capacity limits and vaccine passports. A report published by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table last week shows that daily case counts have already gone up since that time.

"Given the relaxation of public health measures and consequent increase in transmission, hospital and ICU occupancy will likely increase over the next few weeks, but less than in January 2022 and for a limited period of time if changes in behaviour are only moderate," reads the science table update.

"COVID-19 transmission, which drives hospital occupancy, can be reduced by wearing high-quality masks, full vaccination and not increasing contacts."

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, and Premier Doug Ford have both argued that it's safe to remove mask mandates now on account of high vaccination numbers.

According to the province, 91 per cent of Ontarians 12 and over are now fully vaccinated (86 per cent for those five and older.)

Vaccines aren't foolproof, however, with the efficacy of some proven to drop over time without booster shots. One study out of England found that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine provided only 8.8 per cent protection against Omicron at 25 weeks post-vaccination, 65.5 per cent after two to four weeks.

Some contend that Ford hastened the removal of masks for his own political gain.

"You don't know that it's safe to remove mask mandates. All evidence from other places who have done so (England, Denmark) suggest it's a mistake (incr. hospitalization and deaths)," wrote one Twitter user in response to Ford on Monday.

"So thanks for nothing, as you put your political aspirations ahead of what's best for Ontario."

Many people are declaring their intentions to continue wearing masks or face coverings, regardless of what the government permits.

Some are even asking unmasked colleagues to stay the heck away from them.

Others are celebrating the move, citing "freedom" and throwing around unverified numbers, similar to those who participated in the recent illegal occupation of downtown Ottawa.

"Most who have not been financially decimated support masking mandates to continue," wrote one Twitter user in response to another post on the matter.

"The rest of us, who were crushed financially need normal in our industries. That will bring people back out. If you haven't lost a dollar, it's no coincidence you're OK with extending mandates."

Others are still like "masks don't work, la la la I can't hear you!" 

Both Ford and Moore have stated that they'll be wearing masks in some public settings for the time being, and are encouraging all Ontarians to remain tolerant of others' choices.

"As a society, we must remain kind, considerate and respectful toward those who continue wearing a mask. We must also expect indicators, such as cases and hospitalizations, to increase slightly as Ontarians increasingly interact with one another," said Moore when discussing the removal of masks earlier this month, echoing his earlier sentiments.

"However, thanks to our high vaccination rates and natural immunity, as well as the arrival of antivirals, Ontario has the tools necessary to manage the impact of the virus."

Whether or not you believe that Ontario can handle another outbreak, most people seem to agree that nobody should be harassed for what they wear (or don't wear) on their own face.

Lead photo by

Jeremy Gilbert

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