OHS Canada Magazine

Mask mandates will lift in schools, public spaces at the same time: Moore


By Allison Jones

TORONTO — Mask mandates are staying in place in Ontario for now, but when they are removed for public settings they will simultaneously be lifted in schools, the province’s top doctor said Thursday.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said high-risk settings such as public transit, long-term care and hospitals will maintain masking policies even after they are no longer required in most public spaces. But consultations have started for schools.

“We will be working with school boards, with parents, with the ministries, and make a decision together, but we do anticipate if we remove it in the public sector, we would do it simultaneously for the schools,” Moore said.

“That would seem to align — as the risk decreases to do them together.”

Moore also said he is reviewing isolation requirements, such as those for people with COVID-19 symptoms and their household members.

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The chief medical officer of health had previously said he wanted to end workplace COVID-19 vaccination policies in sectors such as hospitals and post-secondary institutions on March 1, when capacity limits will lift in indoor public settings and Ontario’s vaccine certificate system is dropped.

But he said Thursday that he is working with the various sectors, and removing those policies may take longer.

For health-care workers, though the provincial directives may soon be lifted, Moore said he still strongly recommends that anyone providing care to vulnerable people be immunized and that health-care facilities should still have policies for new hires.

“Directives from the CMOH office are meant to be time-limited and they are to (address) an immediate risk to the health of the population,” Moore said.

“So we are forced to review any directive that’s in place, given that we’re at a different phase of the pandemic, and the risk is decreasing day by day.”

Health Canada on Thursday approved a new homegrown vaccine made with plant-based technology, from Medicago, but Moore said Ontario doesn’t expect to receive doses until May or June. Novavax, another non-mRNA vaccine, which was approved last week, should be available in Ontario in mid-March, Moore said.

Public health indicators are improving, though the risk from the virus remains, he said.

“The virus is still present,” Moore said. “It’s just that the impact on the health-care system has stabilized.”

Ontario reported 1,066 people in hospital Thursday with COVID-19 and 302 in intensive care. That’s slightly down from Wednesday, when the province reported 1,106 hospitalizations and 319 people in ICUs.

Ontario also logged 41 new deaths from the virus.

There were 2,404 new cases of COVID-19, but provincial policies limiting access to testing mean that number is likely higher.