Ontario extending mask mandate for high-risk indoor settings like hospitals, public transit

Ontario is extending its mask mandate for high-risk indoor settings amid the ongoing sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mandate, which applies to settings such as hospitals, long-term care homes, congregate living spaces and public transit, was set to expire on April 27. It will now remain in effect until at least June 11. 

At that point, the province says the health ministry “will issue guidance on personal protective equipment recommendations for infection prevention and control in health care settings.”

Most other pandemic measures, including masking in most public settings, proof-of-vaccination rules and crowd capacity limits, have ended in the province.

Health Minister Christine Elliott had said that the government was waiting for a formal recommendation on extending the mandate from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore before making a decision. 

Moore said in a news release Friday that the decision was made “to protect our progress in managing this latest wave.”

Speaking during a health-care funding announcement in Uxbridge today, Elliott said Moore had provided his guidance and that the government would implement his recommendations.

ICU admissions up, 26 new deaths

Ontario also announced on Friday it would start providing an antibody treatment for immunocompromised people that provides protection against COVID-19. The province said the two-shot treatment called Evusheld would be available in the coming weeks for organ and stem cell transplant recipients, some cancer patients undergoing treatment and CAR-T therapy recipients.

The news comes as admissions of COVID-19 to intensive care units climbed to another sixth-wave high Friday, though overall COVID-19 hospitalizations declined slightly. The province also reported the deaths of 26 more more people with the illness.

Of the 214 ICU patients, 61 per cent were admitted to critical care as a direct result of COVID-19 symptoms.

The total number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals dropped to 1,591, down from 1,626 on Thursday. Roughly 46 per cent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 were admitted due to the illness, according to the Ministry of Health.

The ministry also reported another 4,668 confirmed COVID-19 cases as part of a “data catch up.” In a statement, a ministry spokesperson said the count is not reflective of a single-day increase, but provided no further details on when the additional cases may have occurred.

Today’s count follows the 5,038 cases reported yesterday, an unknown percentage of which were also attributed to a data catch up. Requests from CBC News to the ministry for more information about the cases have so far gone unanswered.

Ontario’s official COVID-19 death toll now stands at 12,704.

Public health units administered another 36,134 doses of COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday, the majority of which were second booster shots for eligible Ontarians aged 60 and older. More than 87 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and up have had at least two doses of vaccines. 

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