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Is Ontario dropping its COVID-19 mask mandate too soon?


Opinions differ on whether dropping the mask mandate in Ontario is a good idea, but several public health experts say the government is lifting COVID-19 masking requirements too soon.

The province’s top doctor confirmed Wednesday that mask requirements will lift in most indoor settings on March 21. But several doctors suggested that move is premature.

"Right now we’re getting just a bit fast with the decision-making," Dr. Peter Juni, the head of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Table, told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

Juni, said he would have preferred to have more time to look at the data after the province lifted most COVID-19 restrictions on March 1.

"I’m not suggesting it couldn’t work. It could, because we also have accumulated a lot of immunity," he said. "But it might have been a good idea just to first wait for the data to show: do we remain stable? Or do we start to see an increase resulting from the steps we did on March 1?

"But we’ll see how it goes."

Along with lifting mask mandates, the province is also relaxing isolation rules and ending vaccination requirements. By April 27, all COVID-19 restrictions across the province will be lifted.

The plans come as hospitalizations and ICU admissions from COVID-19 continue to decrease.

Juni said he would have liked to see the mask mandates remain in place for at least 10 days longer. Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Eastern Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, echoed that opinion.

“I agree with the approach. I would have waited two more weeks,” he said, adding that waiting until the end of March or beginning of April would allow officials to see what happens when children return to school after March Break.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said he would like to see a sustained reduction in cases and hospitalizations before mask mandates are lifted. The public health benefits of wearing a mask still overshadow any so-called harms, he said.

“I think it’s reasonable to keep masks around, just for a little bit longer,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CTV News at Noon. “There will be a time and place, and probably soon, where I think mask mandates can be lifted. I just think we should keep it for a few more weeks.”

Ottawa's medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, said in a statement Wednesday that it's important to approach changes in COVID-19 restrictions cautiously.

"As public health measures continue to be lifted, it will become increasingly important for individuals to assess their own level of risk, and the risk of those they live and interact withc," she wrote. "We are shifting to a space where individuals and their families must choose how to, rather than be mandated, to best protect themselves. This will include the decision to wear a mask in indoor or shared spaces."

Etches wrote that she's glad masking will continue to be mandated for some time yet on public transit and in health-care settings, and she acknowledged the discomfort some residents may feel in getting rid of mask mandates. 

"I encourage parents, guardians, and caregivers to continue with the layers of protection that make them feel at ease and which can continue to decrease COVID-19 transmission, including masking. It is important to show respect for others and their individual choices, based on their own assessment of their risk – or the risk to a loved one," she said.


Some residents are also concerned about growing division between those ready to throw the masks away and those who aren’t comfortable with it yet.

"I think we can all anticipate some division in the near future but I’m hopeful that it will subside and we can all move forward together," said Ashley Mathieu, Owner of Anytime Fitness on Kent Street. "If some members want to continue with distancing or masking or any of that kind of stuff that makes them feel safer in the club we will more than welcome it, at this point we’re looking forward to the choice being given to our members."

Restaurant owners, like Summer Baird of Hintonburg Public House, say the end of mask mandates will make things easier for both customers and staff.

"They can just go back to serving food and drinks and smiles, behind the mask or not depending on what they choose," said Baird. "It'll be nice to be open and just live our lives again, and we're slowly getting there. I can appreciate some won't be comfortable to do it yet and if they want to wear their masks their more than welcome to." Top Stories

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