Ontario recently welcomed what seemed to be an improbable change amidst the pandemic landscape that has affected the world for the last two years — masks are no longer mandatory in many public settings.
The move was implemented on Monday, March 21 shortly after the province’s proof-of-vaccination rules were nullified. Despite the removal, however, masks will still be required in some settings, particularly on public transit, in health-care facilities, long-term care homes, and congregate care settings.
Some businesses throughout Toronto are also opting against a complete removal of masks in their workspaces. Many of these mandates, however, will remain in place until the end of April as Ontario intends to put an end to all remaining public health rules.
Another major sector that will continue mask mandates are colleges and universities, including York. Per a statement from March 11 by Ontario’s Universities, “Ontario’s universities will maintain their COVID-19 vaccination and masking policies until at least the end of the current term.”
York’s statement put out on March 14 also confirms this, in addition to daily screening everybody must be adhered to.
While mask wearing and proof of vaccination has become second nature for many, others are understandably relieved at the change of scene. Michael Dodaro, a third-year finance student, is very supportive of the province’s move. He attributes his confidence to having dealt with the virus during the Omicron surge along with being double vaccinated.
“Since the Omicron variant is easily transmissible, I don’t think masks really provide all that much protection to inhibit contracting the virus. Overall, I believe removing the mask mandates (this late into the pandemic) is the first step toward some normalcy in the past two years.”
Many may find this to be a refreshing change after two years of fluctuating stress, however, prior to stepping down as head of the Ontario Science Advisory Table, Dr. Peter Jüni expressed his reluctance to remove mask mandates.
Telling CTV News, “I personally would have preferred to wait about 10 days to two weeks to come up with a decision on mask mandates, and this would also allow us to see what the experience of Quebec will be with their lifting of mask mandates in schools.” Although the data he has seen gives him “some confidence,” the lack of certainty, however, keeps him from getting behind the move.
Some people hint that this move is possibly centred around political pressure. In a brief yet steadfast comment, The Honorable Judy Sgro, who is also the MP for the Humber River–Black Creek region, believes “several decisions are being made provincially with Election Day in mind.” Sgro notes, “Given the northwest end of the city has a low vaccination rate, we should proceed with caution.”
New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh also gave his comments to Excalibur regarding both the removal of mask mandates and how it could potentially affect small businesses. “Even though it’s understandable that people are eager to get back to normal, any decision to change public health measures has to be made based on the advice of public health experts and not for political gain.”
Singh gave his support for those individuals, businesses, and institutions that may continue to require face masks. “Workers in small businesses, like all workers, deserve to feel safe at their jobs. We respect the right of small business owners to decide to continue requiring masks in their businesses in order to keep their customers and workers protected.”