Video has emerged online of Ontario's top doctor unmasked at an event Thursday night — only days after he "strongly" recommended masks in indoor public settings, citing extraordinary pressures on the province's health-care system.
Posted by the publication Toronto Life on its Instagram page, the video shows Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore without a mask, standing in close quarters with other guests as they watch a performance.
The event was a celebration of the magazine's top 50 most influential people of 2022.
The ranking lists Moore in the number 12 spot "for keeping COVID under control."
Earlier this week, Moore urged Ontarians to wear masks in indoor public settings, including in schools and in childcare settings, but stopped short of recommending a return to a mask mandate in the province.
Moore 'follows many layers of protection': province
The recommendation came as health-care providers reported a combination of flu, respiratory syncytial virus (more commonly known as RSV) and COVID-19 continued to put tremendous stress on under-staffed hospitals in the province.
Asked by CBC News if Moore has a responsibility to model the behaviour he has urged Ontarians to follow, the Ministry of Health said: "Like all Ontarians, Dr. Moore evaluates the risk of each situation including private events.
"He follows many layers of protection including screening daily for symptoms of any respiratory infection, practicing good hand hygiene, staying up to date on immunizations, masking when necessary and distancing when possible.
"Dr. Moore continues to encourage everyone to use their best judgment on when it's appropriate to wear a mask, particularly around the most vulnerable, including young children."
The images drew ire from some online Friday, including Michael Warner, an intensive care physician at Toronto's Michael Garron Hospital.
"The [chief medical officer of health] doesn't follow his own advice on masking," he said in a tweet.
"How is this supposed to make the parents of sick children and burnt out healthcare workers feel as the number of PICU patients continues to exceed PICU capacity?" he said referring to pediatric intensive care units.
Masking 'a personal choice,' premier says
Premier Doug Ford was also asked by reporters about Moore being unmasked at Thursday's event.
To that, he responded, "Here in Ontario, masking is a personal choice."
"The people of Ontario — they've been through two years of this — they know if they need a mask or don't need a mask. That's going to be up to them."
Ford himself came under fire earlier this week for appearing in the legislature without a mask, even after Moore's advice to Ontarians to wear one.
Asked by the Opposition why he appeared not to be following the advice of his own chief medical officer of health, Ford did not respond.
Minister of Health Sylvia Jones later told reporters masking is a "personal choice," adding: "I think you have to take into consideration the size of the building, the size of the room."
Moore's recommendation Monday did not make mention of room size.