'People cannot assess their own risk': Ontario's top doctors say COVID-19 mask mandate is not coming back right now, but critics don't agree

·3 min read
A woman wearing a face mask walks past posters reminding people to wear face masks at a subway station in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Feb. 14, 2022. (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images) (Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images)

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, indicated the province's mask mandate will not be reinstated, while its been estimated that Ontario is seeing 100,000 to 120,000 new COVID-19 cases a day.

He did add that the province may bring mandatory masking in indoor spaces back "if a new variant of concern emerges, a threat to our healthcare system or potentially during the winter months when COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are likely to circulate again."

"We are very mask friendly in Ontario," Ontario's chief medical officer of health said. "It is clear that we are in the sixth wave of this pandemic, driven by the BA.2 variant."

"In the last few weeks, we have seen an increase in the percent positivity, an upward trend in wastewater surveillance and a rise in hospitalizations. These trends are likely to continue for the next several weeks but there are actions that we can take to help manage the impact of this wave, such as layering the personal protective measures we have adopted so well over the last two years, even when they may not be legally required. These include a strong recommendation to continue wearing a well-fitted, three-layer mask, or use of a medical mask, in all indoor public settings."

When probed by journalists specifically about why masking isn't required in school settings, Dr. Moore stressed that "there has been no significant rise in the risk of children in intensive care settings" and an average of between 30 and 60 kids are admitted to hospital over a one-week period, but some are "incidental admissions."

Ontarians, especially reporters, have noticed that Dr. Moore has been relatively absent over the last few weeks. When asked about the lack of updates, he said if there is a "new message of risk" he "absolutely will come out."

Several Ontarians, including health experts in the province, took to social media to respond to Dr. Moore's update.

Ontario expands access to COVID-19 antivirals, PCR testing

The Ontario government announced Monday the following higher-risk groups are eligible for PCR testing and to be assessed for antiviral treatments, like Paxlovid:

  • Individuals aged 18 and over who are immunocompromised (have an immune system that is weakened by a health condition or medications)

  • Individuals aged 70 and over

  • Individuals aged 60 and over with fewer than three vaccine doses

  • Individuals aged 18 and over with fewer than three vaccine doses and at least one risk condition

On April 12, the number of locations dispensing antivirals will increase, with a list of pharmacies available Wednesday, April 13 at 8:00 a.m.

Antiviral treatments must be started within five days of symptoms, "in most cases."

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