Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday March 10, 2022
Ontario to drop most mask mandates on March 21, remaining pandemic rules to lift by end of April
Ontario will scrap most mask mandates — including in schools, restaurants, gyms and stores — across the province on March 21, with remaining COVID-19 regulations also set to drop by the end of April.
The province says improving health indicators, such as a stable COVID-19 test positivity rate and declining hospitalizations, as well as Ontario’s high vaccination rate and the availability of antiviral treatments, allow for these steps.
The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, announced the new changes Wednesday.
“We are now learning to live with and manage COVID-19 for the long term,” Moore said. “This necessitates a shift to a more balanced response to the pandemic.”
However, Moore said removing the mask mandate “does not mean the risk is gone” or the pandemic is over.
He noted masking requirements may need to be reinstated if there is another spike in COVID-19 cases, adding that vulnerable people should continue to take precautions despite the easing of restrictions.
“We should all be prepared that we may need to resume mask wearing,” he said, adding that he hopes anyone who remains vulnerable will continue to wear a mask.
The next step in Ontario’s reopening will come on March 14, when mandatory vaccinate-or-test policies end for workers in schools, child-care settings, hospitals and long-term care. Individual organizations can keep their own requirements in place, and most hospitals have said they will continue their strict vaccine mandates.
On March 21, masking requirements will be removed in most indoor settings in the province, including restaurants, retail, fitness centres and grocery stores and schools.
Mandates will still remain in place for a period of time for public transit, long-term care and retirement homes, shelters, jails and congregate care and living settings. Toronto’s top doctor has recommended the city’s mask mandates expire in lockstep with Ontario’s.
Other measures in schools will also be lifted on that date, including removing cohorting and daily on-site screening. In addition, all other regulatory requirements for businesses will be removed, including passive screening and safety plans.
Then on April 27, all remaining mask requirements and emergency orders will expire.
Dr. Peter Jüni, who heads Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said “it’s too early to tell” if removing mask mandates is the right move at this time.
Speaking to CBC Radio’s Metro Morning before the announcement, Jüni was asked if the province’s move was a scientific or political decision.
“It’s not supported by science right now because it’s just too early. We would need at least one to two weeks more data to say, ‘okay we’re stable’ and we just make it to the next step,” he said.
Several other experts agree. (CBC)
Just to recap: While some experts say COVID-19 does not spread easily through meals, a professor of food safety believes it could still spark the end of birthday cakes with candles.
Paul Dawson, a professor in Food Systems and Safety at Clemson University in South Carolina, believes that COVID-19 should make people reconsider whether they want to celebrate their birthday by blowing candles and sharing the cake with loved ones.
“I kind of think (COVID-19) might be the end of the birthday tradition of having a big birthday cake and multiple candles and blowing around it,” he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. (CTV)