I’ll wear a mask after COVID-19 mandates end, Doug Ford says

Premier Doug Ford says he’ll continue wearing a mask in certain situations even after Ontario’s COVID-19 mask mandates are lifted.

“If I’m going into long-term care to see my mother-in-law, I’m wearing a mask,” he said Thursday, defending his government’s decisions to lift masking requirements in schools and most indoor public settings March 21.

“If I’m visiting someone in hospital, I’m wearing a mask.”

While masking requirements in nursing homes, hospitals and on public transit remain in place until April 27, it’s important people have an option to stop wearing masks as the Omicron wave fades, Ford said at a campaign-style transit announcement in Woodbridge as the June 2 provincial election approaches.

“There has to be a point after two years of going through this, people have to have a choice … they’re going to have a choice based on their health condition,” he told reporters when asked about the fate of people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems who are at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

“If they want to wear a mask, God bless them,” he added. “No one should bother them about that.”

An announcement from chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore about the further reopening measures on Wednesday met with criticism from some medical experts and also from opposition parties. There are concerns that March 21 is the first day back to work and school following the school March break, when many families travel.

“It absolutely does not make sense,” said epidemiologist Todd Coleman of Wilfrid Laurier University.

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath suggested waiting two more weeks and called the March 21 date “an unnecessary gamble.”

“What’s the rush?” Horwath asked.

Moore said the date was chosen because March 21 is three weeks after the latest round of eased restrictions at the beginning of the month, and is appropriate in a province that is highly vaccinated and has as many as four million residents with natural immunity from Omicron infections since early December.

Moore has said the current level of infection is 10 times the number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed daily by limited PCR testing. With 2,125 new infections reported Thursday, that would put the actual number of daily cases across the province around 20,000.

“That’s not negligible,” said Coleman, a former public health official in London, Ont. “For the foreseeable future I’ll be wearing my N95 mask out in public settings.”

Moore told reporters he would continue to wear a mask in busy indoor settings like the Eaton Center shopping mall and big box stores.

Ford said Ontario is one of the last jurisdictions in North America to phase out mandatory masking, following all 50 US states and several provinces. British Columbia announced it is lifting mask mandates Friday for indoor public spaces.


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