Ontario to remove mask mandates on March 21
TORONTO (AP) — Canada’s largest province is removing mask mandates on March 21 in most settings, including schools, officials announced Wednesday.
The province of Ontario said improving health indicators such as a stable COVID-19 test positivity rate and declining hospitalizations, as well as Ontario’s high vaccination rates and the availability of antiviral treatments, allow for these steps.
“It’s now a choice, not a mandate. I hope that anyone who remains vulnerable continues to wear masks,” Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said.
The announcement came as 1,974 new COVID-19 cases were reported Wednesday in the province, though Moore has said that limits on testing mean that the true number is likely 10 times that amount, or more than 19,000 cases.
“We are now learning to live with and manage COVID-19 for the long term,” Moore said. “This necessitates a shift to a more balanced response to the pandemic.”
Moore said individuals can do their own risk assessment. “You can’t mandate masking forever,” he said.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at an unrelated announcement Wednesday that the world has learned a lot since March 2020 and Ontario is in much better shape now.
“We’re going to move forward cautiously, and if someone wants to keep (a mask) on, God bless them, and good for them,” he said. “But I know a lot of people don’t want to keep them on.”
Ford said he’s been accused of being the most cautious government leader in North America. Ontario and Toronto, Canada’s largest city, has been locked down more than many other jurisdictions over the past two years.