Current mask mandates will stick around for a little longer in Ontario.
Today, the Province announced that masking requirements set to expire on April 27, 2022 are being extended in current settings until 12:00 a.m. on June 11, 2022. Higher-risk indoor settings like public transit, health care settings, long-term care homes, retirement homes, and shelters will enforce mask-wearing until (at least) June 11.
“To protect our progress in managing this latest wave, I am maintaining masking requirements in specific public settings where individuals who are, or may be, at increased risk of severe outcomes, are in close contact for extended periods of time,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Continuing to follow masking requirements and keeping up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations are the best ways we can prevent transmission and protect our friends, families, and our communities.”
Moore also said the remaining directives will also stay in effect until June 11, “after which the ministry will issue guidance on personal protective equipment recommendations for infection prevention and control in health-care settings.”
Of course, today's mask mandate news isn’t entirely surprising, given that everyone seems to know someone with COVID right now and the extension has been hinted at for weeks. However, thanks to Ontario’s high vaccination rates, expansion of booster doses, and arrival of antivirals, the Province says it's possible to manage the impact of the virus. In a Province-issued press release, the Ontario government assures residents its using "every tool" to protect hospital capacity and ensure Ontario stays open. In addition to continue masking in high-risk settings, it highlights the expanding eligibility for fourth doses of the vaccine and expanding access to antiviral treatments like Paxlovid.
“The Chief Medical Officer of Health and the province will continue to monitor key indicators and the COVID-19 situation across Ontario,” reads a Province-issued press release.
The Province also announced that Ontario would start to receive shipments of Evusheld, an antibody treatment for immunocompromised promised individuals. Two doses administered when a person is not positive for COVID-19 are said to provide protection from the virus for six months.
Evusheld will be available to individuals with the highest-risk of a severe outcome from COVID-19 in the coming weeks, including solid organ transplant recipients, stem cell transplant recipients, CAR-T therapy recipients and other hematologic cancer patients undergoing treatment.
“Thanks to the province’s high vaccination rates as well as an increase in antiviral treatment availability and eligibility, we have been able to cautiously and gradually reopen Ontario,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “Vaccination remains our best protection against COVID-19, and I strongly recommend that everyone stays up to date with their vaccinations by receiving the dose you are eligible for as soon as you can. As with vaccines for other diseases, you are protected best when you stay up to date."
While we may be in the midst of a "sixth wave," it seems many Ontario residents agree that we need learn to live with the virus; the province's businesses have reported a notable increase in customers since the compulsory masking mandate for all indoor settings was lifted on March 21.