Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that if the chief medical officer of health recommends it, he is open to extending existing mask mandates beyond the original April deadline.
Mask regulations have already been lifted in most settings across the province, and they are due to be phased out in high-risk settings such as hospitals and long-term care facilities on April 27. However, several doctors have urged patients to continue wearing masks indoors in the face of a sixth-wave increase in hospitalizations.
“I wouldn’t have any problem at all with that,” Ford said when asked if he would be open to extending the mask mandate for high-risk settings. “We want to protect the most vulnerable, I’ve always said that from day one. But I’ll wait for Dr. Moore to give us the recommendations. I have right from day one. And if he gives us recommendations, I’d be more than happy to do that.”
At a briefing Monday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said that it “makes tremendous sense” to extend masking in high-risk settings beyond April. He said the current wave of infection is not likely to settle until mid to late May and that he would be passing along recommendations to the government soon.
Many doctors and health professionals have criticized the province’s deadlines for dropping masking as “arbitrary” and have said it makes no sense to do so as cases surge and hospitalizations rise.
While doing so is no longer provincially required by law, many doctors continue to urge people to wear masks indoors, especially in crowed settings. A number of GTA school boards have also said that they are asking all students and staff to continue masking, though the provincial requirement has been lifted.
Ford himself urged people to remain “cautious” heading into the Easter long weekend and to mask if it makes sense to do so.
“I’d say stay cautious, right, stay cautious,” Ford said. “If you’re having 15 people over, put your mask on, right. It doesn’t hurt if you’re in a crowded room. We’ve been through this for two years now. It’s common sense prevails. Right? Put a mask on. It doesn’t hurt. That’s gonna be up to each individual person.”
While Ford said he is open to extending the mask mandate for high-risk settings, he reiterated the government’s position that current infection levels can be managed with available tools, such as booster shots and antiviral drugs when asked why he isn’t extending masking in other settings such as schools.
“We’re going to take the advice of Dr. Moore, and I go back to the capacity that we have now compared to the beginning of this pandemic,” Ford said. “We have the capacity in the hospitals, we’ve hired more health-care workers, we have antiviral pills. You know, we’re doing fairly well as a province in comparison to other regions.”
There are currently close to 1,400 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario, the highest that number has been since mid-February.
Source_ The Canadian Press