Even as one GTA mayor questioned the timing of the move, Premier Doug Ford is defending his government’s decision to abolish the mask mandate in most settings in less than two weeks.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that she believes it is “a little too soon” to abolish the mask mandate in most settings as of March 21, given that proof of vaccination requirements were only recently lifted.
But at a subsequent news conference to unveil a new transportation infrastructure plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Ford stood by the decision while acknowledging that he will continue to wear a mask when he visits his mother-in-law in her long-term care home. He also said that he would choose to wear a mask whenever he is inside a hospital, even after the requirement for that setting is lifted in April.
“There has to be a point after two years of going through this where people have a choice,” he said. “We can’t live with this for forever and I’m always following the advice of Dr. (Kieran) Moore, our chief medical officer and he is saying the same thing. You know, people are going to have a choice based on their health condition. If they want to wear a mask, God bless them, good for them and no one should bother them about that either.”
The Ford government has said that it will lift the mask mandate in most settings, including schools, as of March 21.
The mandate, however, will remain in effect for a number of high-risk settings, including public transit, long-term care and retirement homes, health-care settings, congregate care settings, shelters and jails, until April 27.
Speaking with reporters earlier on Thursday, Crombie said that she does “anticipate” that Mississauga City Council will vote to lift a local masking bylaw when they meet on March 23 in order to be in alignment with the province.
But she also expressed unease at the pace at which some restrictions are being lifted and said that the province should consider keeping mandatory masking in place in the remaining high-risk settings past April 27 “should health trends warrant.”
“It’s clear that we all have the right ingredients in place to start getting back to normal. But I entirely understand why some people think lifting the mask mandate on March 21 is a bit too soon. Frankly, I do too, particularly because we just eased the last remaining capacity limits on businesses and other settings as well as proof of vaccination requirements and haven’t had a chance to see what the impacts might be on our hospitals,” she said. “Right now they’re in a good place but we still need time to recover and ramp back up to full surgical capacity.”
The Ford government’s decision to lift the mask mandate comes amid a significant decline in hospitalizations.
As recently as Jan. 22 there were more than 4,000 people in hospitals testing positive for the virus but as of today that number has dropped to 742.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, acknowledged that “there is debate with every choice” in an interview with CP24 earlier on Thursday, but highlighted that the province is in a “really good place” right now that allows it to begin lifting the mask mandate safely.
Ford also pointed out that Ontario is only following the path of other provinces that have already announced plans to repeal mask laws.
“Keep in mind that the entire world is doing the same thing, as does all of North America. “We’re not at the front of the pack,” he said.
Since July 2020, Ontarians have been compelled by law to wear masks in indoor public places.
Source_ The Canadian Press