Ontario’s top doctor says he’s not concerned about COVID-19 cases rising after the lifting of nearly all remaining mask mandates tomorrow.
On Wednesday, the provincial government announced that mask mandates would be lifted in most high-risk settings as of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.
Masks will no longer be required on public transit, in hospitals and in shelters. The mandates, however, will stay in place for retirement and long-term care homes.
The province first implemented mask mandates to decrease the spread of the virus in October 2020.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore says he is not worried about an increase in coronavirus cases after the mandates are lifted due to high vaccination rates and declining virus spread in the province.
“No (I’m not concerned), mainly because Ontarians continue to wear masks despite a mandate. We’re cautious. We’re careful. We’re kinda considerate to each other. And I continue to see masking even outdoors walking on streets in Toronto,” Moore told CP24 Friday morning.
Despite the province’s decision to lift the masking order, the head of Ontario’s science table says masking mandates should have been maintained in high-risk settings for “at least a few more weeks.”
In addition, several Toronto hospitals said they will keep masking in place for now.
“I think Dr. Moore, looking at all the evidence and where we’re at with COVID, thankfully, feels that we’re now at a point where we can drop that masking mandate, which is terrific news, good progress, but we’re not out of the woods for particularly vulnerable populations,” University Health Network President Kevin Smith told CP24 on Wednesday
The Hospital for Sick Children, Humber River Hospital, North York General Hospital, Sunnybrook Hospital, Women’s College Hospital, and Mackenzie Health hospitals have also said that its mask requirements will remain in place.
Moore says he agrees with the hospitals’ stance on keeping masking mandates in place as that is in line with the province’s guidelines.
He added that the province is simply transitioning from a temporary mandatory masking order to a standard of care.
“So my expectation is all of these sites and partners will continue with all of the best practices and all the lessons learned that we’ve had over the last two-and-a-half years. So I have complete confidence for patients, healthcare workers and their families, that the standards will be maintained without the need for a mandatory order which includes fines and risk of imprisonment, which we’ve never had to use.”
Moore acknowledged that Ontarians may feel uneasy with the masking order being lifted but said the province is in a good position right now with most COVID-19 metrics improving, such as hospitalizations, testing positivity and wastewater signal data.
“Our Ontario response has been brilliant. I have to thank all Ontarians because we’re only in this position because Ontarians have accepted treatments. They have accepted vaccination and they have accepted wearing masking where necessary. And I think it’s at a time heading into the summer where we can remove the mandatory nature of masking and Ontarians will remain cautious, careful as we head into the fall,” he said.
On Thursday, the province reported 549 patients in hospital, down 121 patients from a week ago. The province also reported the lowest number of hospital patients breathing with the help of a ventilator since October 2020.
With files from CP24’s Byrann Aguilar
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