Looks like Ontario might consider bringing back mask mandates amid COVID surge

During his first COVID update announcement in more than a month, Ontario’s top physician finally acknowledged this afternoon that we are in the midst of a sixth wave of a global pandemic that seemingly won’t end.

“In recent weeks we have seen an increase in the percentage of positivity, an upward trend in sewage surveillance and an increase in hospitalizations,” said the Ontario Medical Director of Health Dr. Kieran Moore in Queen’s Park on Monday announcing expanded availability of PCR tests and antiviral treatments.

“These trends are likely to continue for the next several weeks, but there are actions we can take to help manage the impact of this wave, such as layering on the personal protection measures we’ve adopted so well over the past two years, even when they may not be legally required”.

He then laid out a strong and meaningful recommendation for all Ontarians to consider when going out in public: “Continue to wear a well-fitting three-ply mask or wear a medical mask in all indoor public settings.

Moore is far from the first medical expert or even the first public health official to speak out in favor of wearing masks as a form of post-mandate protection, but the doctor’s words seemed more decisive today than earlier this year. , when he simply warned everyone to assess their own risks and mask by choice if they wish.

While he stopped short of announcing any new mandates (or reimplementation of previous ones) in light of today’s recent spike, he also warned that Ontario “may need to resume the requirement for face coverings in public indoor spaces if a new variant of concern emerges.” .”

Asked if the province still plans to remove mask mandates (and all requirements) in high-risk settings like hospitals, long-term care homes and public transport on April 27, the doctor said the government is ” looking for extensions” for everyone. of those high-risk facilities.

“We are…absolutely considering keeping it,” said Moore, who also stated that the sixth wave could last until the end of May 2022.

“Our team is drafting it and will present it to the government and the government will make the final decision, but it makes a lot of sense to me to keep it.”

Moore’s (oddly brief) comments alone aren’t enough to suggest that mask mandates are making a comeback in Ontario as a result of the sixth wave (which, incidentally, began shortly after the province lifted face covering rules). on March 21).

However, the picture turns murky when his words are combined with those of Health Minister Christine Elliott and Ontario Premier Doug Ford during separate press events on Monday.

“I think it comes down to common sense. We’ve been through this for two years. When you walk into a room full of people, put your mask on.” Ford said at a press conference in Toronto this afternoon when asked about the possible return of mask mandates

“No one will force you, but I would recommend it. Just put on the mask.”

Elliott, for her part, said Monday (per CBC) that officials will make their masking decisions based on the advice of medical health officials like Moore.

“A lot of people are choosing to keep wearing their masks, that’s their own preference,” the minister said. “That’s something we’re going to look forward to. [the top doctors’] guidance on and if it’s a requirement that they recommend that we go back to wearing masks, we will.”

Meanwhile, pressure continues to mount on the three officials online, with more and more calling on them to reinstate mask mandates and other public health restrictions to stop the rise of Omicron’s BA.2 variant.

For now, Moore recommends instead that people make sure they’re vaccinated and keep up with any available booster doses.

In related news, Philadelphia became the first US city to reinstate its own mask mandates Monday in response to rising cases and hospitalizations.


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