Ontario’s top public health official says he will propose that obligatory masking continue in place in select high-risk environments, but that a “broad-based” mandate will not be reinstated for the time being.
The province had planned to repeal masking requirements for all remaining settings, including hospitals, long-term care homes, and public transportation, on April 27, but during a press conference on Monday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore stated that he now believes it is appropriate to keep the requirement in place for the time being.
His comment come amid a resurgence in viral activity that Premier Doug Ford has characterized as a “little spike. Wastewater surveillance, however, has suggested that Ontario could be seeing levels of transmission comparable to the peak of the Omicron wave of the pandemic in January, raising real concerns about the potential impact on hospitals in the weeks to come.
“Clearly we think this wave is not going to be settling until the middle or end of May and as a result we’re looking at an extension (of the mask mandate) for all of those high-risk facilities,” Moore said. “Our team is drafting it. We’ll present that to government and the government will make the final decision but to me that makes tremendous sense, to maintain it.”
The Ford government lifted mask mandates for most settings on March 21 but since then there has been an exponential rise in COVID-19 transmission, with the head of the province’s science table telling CP24 last week that he now believes that Ontario could be seeing 100,000 to 120,000 new cases each day.
The wave has coincided with the more infectious BA.2 subvariant becoming in dominant in Ontario, though in a report released on Friday Public Health Ontario said that resurgence is, at least,
partly linked to the lifting of mask mandates.
It has suggested that reinstituting masking at a “population level” could be “effective at reducing transmission, while enabling community settings and activities to continue functioning.”
Moore, however, stated during his briefing that he does not intend to support the reinstatement of a broad-based mandatory masking policy, at least for the time being.
Instead, he stated that, given the increase in transmission, it is his “strong recommendation” that Ontarians wear masks in indoor public settings, regardless of whether or not they are required to do so by law.
“While we will not be reinstating a broad mask mandate at this time,” he said, “we should all be prepared that if a new variant of concern emerges, if there is a threat to our healthcare system, or potentially during the winter months when COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are likely to circulate again,” he said.
Source_ The Canadian Press