Masking a 'personal choice,' Ford says of video appearing to show maskless top doctor

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford downplayed the significance Friday of footage posted online that appeared to show the province's top doctor attending an indoor party maskless, days after he recommended masking in all indoor spaces.

Videos posted on Toronto Life's Instagram account appear to show chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore maskless while talking to attendees and watching performances at the magazine's Thursday night celebration of its 50 most influential Torontonians.

When asked about the videos at an unrelated news conference Friday, the premier said "masking is a personal choice" for the province's residents.

"The people of Ontario, they've been through two and a half years of this, they know if they need a mask, they know if they don't," Ford said.

"If you're around vulnerable people, you're around young people, that's going to be your choice."

On Monday, Moore strongly recommended Ontarians wear masks indoors to protect children from a "triple threat" of circulating respiratory illnesses that have been overwhelming kids' hospitals in recent weeks due to a massive influx of very sick patients.

"We're asking more people to mask up,'' Moore said at a news conference. "What might be a cold to you can lead to a severe respiratory infection in a child four and under.''

He stopped short of mandating masking, saying the biggest risk to children right now is in social settings where it is hard to mandate behaviour, but warned the measure was still on the table if pressure on the province's health-care system increases.

Moore's office did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said Moore evaluates the risk of each situation "including private events" and uses many layers of protection from daily screenings for symptoms of respiratory infection to practising good hand hygiene.

"Dr. Moore continues to encourage everyone to use their best judgment on when it's appropriate to wear a mask," Anna Miller said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Ford was maskless in the provincial legislature after saying last weekend that Ontarians should wear a mask "every time possible" and that he would follow Moore's advice.

A majority of the Progressive Conservatives also did not wear masks in the legislature this week. Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones came to their defence, calling masking a "personal choice" and saying the size of the room is an important factor to consider -- which Moore had not said to Ontarians.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Tyler Griffin, The Canadian Press