Ontario to drop most mask mandates March 21, remaining pandemic rules to be lifted by end of April
Ontario will remove most mask mandates – including in schools, restaurants, gyms and stores – across the province on March 21, with remaining COVID-19 regulations also to be removed by the end of April .
The province says improving health indicators, such as a stable COVID-19 test positivity rate and lower hospitalizations, along with Ontario’s high immunization rate and availability of antiviral treatments, are helping these steps.
The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, announced the new changes on Wednesday.
“We are now learning to live with and manage COVID-19 long-term,” Moore said. “It requires moving to a more balanced response to the pandemic.”
However, Moore said removing the mask mandate “doesn’t mean the risk is gone” or the pandemic is over.
He noted that 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 all have to be ready to have to go back to wearing masks,” he said, adding that he hopes anyone who remains vulnerable will continue to wear a mask.
WATCH | Masks will no longer be required in most settings:
“We will be monitoring COVID-19 trends closely and carefully across the province. We will not hesitate to take action if the situation changes and will update Ontarians on any significant developments,” he said.
All restrictions will be lifted on April 27
The next step in reopening Ontario will be on March 14, when mandatory vaccination or testing policies end for workers in schools, daycares, hospitals and long-term care facilities. Individual organizations can keep their own requirements in place, and most hospitals have said they will continue with their strict vaccine mandates.
On March 21, masking requirements will be lifted in most indoor settings across the province, including restaurants, retail businesses, fitness centers, grocery stores and schools.
- You can read the full province update at the bottom of this story.
The mandates will remain in place for some time for public transit, long-term care and retirement homes, shelters, prisons and congregate care and living facilities. Toronto’s top doctor has recommended that the city’s mask mandates expire at the same time as Ontario’s.
Other measures in schools will also be lifted on this date, including the abolition of cohorts and daily screening on site. Additionally, all other regulatory requirements for businesses will be removed, including passive screening and security plans.
Then, on April 27, all remaining mask requirements and emergency orders will expire.
Meanwhile, Ontario is also expanding its list of settings eligible for PCR testing to include home and community care settings and provincial demonstration schools.
‘Not backed by science,’ says head of science table
Shortly before Moore’s announcement, Premier Doug Ford said Ontario would remain cautious even after mask mandates were dropped, adding that “anyone who wants to wear a mask [is] more than welcome to.
“If you want to keep your mask on, keep it on. If you want to take it off, take it off,” Ford said at a press conference.
The province has already started rolling back some pandemic health measures, as it lifted vaccine proof rules for some businesses as well as capacity limits for businesses and social gatherings last week.
Dr. Peter Jüni, who leads Ontario’s COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Table, said “it’s too early to tell” whether removing mask mandates is the right move at this time.
Speaking to CBC Radio Subway morning prior to the announcement, Jüni was asked whether the province’s move was a scientific or a political decision.
“It’s not supported by science right now because it’s just too early. We would need at least another week or two of data to say ‘okay, we’re stable’ and we let’s take the next step,” he said.
Several other experts agree.
Dr Gerald Evans, infectious disease physician, declares removal of capacity limits, vaccine certificates and mask
the mandates are happening in a relatively short period of time, and that the mask requirements should have been maintained until the weather warms up and virus activity naturally decreases.
WATCH | Infectious disease specialist says masks are ‘imperfect’ but still help:
“I’m as eager as anyone to get out of the pandemic and get back to something that was what we had before 2020, but on the other hand, we have to be very careful,” Evans said.
“There’s a kind of almost narrative that’s being driven here that it’s all over. We’re all done. Let’s move on. And I think we just have to do it with a little more…time-based caution. .”
The government’s plan has also met with backlash from one of the country’s largest education unions.
In a press release, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) called the plan “premature” and said it would put students at risk of seeing their in-person learning again. disturbed.
Changes to isolation guidelines from Wednesday
Isolation guidelines are also changed on Wednesday for close contacts of someone who has or is symptomatic with COVID-19.
No one who is in close contact with someone outside their household with COVID-19 should self-isolate now, although it is still recommended to wear a mask outside the home for 10 days and avoid people and high-risk environments.
If a household member tests positive or has symptoms, people do not need to self-isolate if they are 18 or older and have received a booster dose, if they are under 18 and have received two vaccine doses, or if they have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days.
Ontario is also updating how it reports deaths from COVID-19 starting Friday. The province will determine if COVID-19 has caused a death, contributed to a death, or if the cause of death is unknown or missing. In addition, Ontario will report deaths by vaccination status and age group, and remove from the cumulative total any deaths that are now classified as not related to COVID-19.
Data provided Wednesday by the province indicates that the majority of reported COVID-19 deaths were caused by the virus, with about 20% more listed with COVID-19 as a contributing factor. Less than 10% of deaths are classified as unrelated.
751 hospitalizations for COVID-19, 27 additional deaths reported
Meanwhile, the province is reporting 751 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and another 27 virus-related deaths on Wednesday.
Hospitalizations reported today mark a slight drop from Tuesday, when 779 were reported, and are down from 847 at this time last week.
According to the Ministry of Health, about 46% of people admitted to hospital were directly seeking treatment for COVID-19 symptoms, while 54% were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive for the virus. .
Among the reported hospitalizations are 241 intensive care patients, marking a decrease from 246 on Monday and 273 exactly a week ago.
About 82% of those patients were admitted to intensive care specifically for the virus, while the rest were admitted for other reasons but also tested positive for the virus.
Ontario reported 1,947 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, though Moore warned that the true number of new cases each day is likely 10 times higher than what is being reported by limited PCR testing.
The 27 additional deaths reported on Wednesday bring the official toll to 12,618.