In news that either comes as a celebration or cause for concern -- depending on who you ask -- mandatory mask mandates are finally being dropped in Ontario on March 21.
After nearly two years, the province will end the requirement to wear masks in most indoor public settings and schools in less than two weeks’ time. There are exceptions made for hospitals, congregate care settings, the long-term care system, and public transit, which will keep mask mandates in place.
Ontario’s top doctor Kieran Moore relayed the news in a press conference this morning and expressed optimism on the pandemic front when it comes to key measures. “We are now learning to live with and manage COVID-19 for the long-term,” said Moore. He said the peak of Omicron is now behind us.
Moore urged people to be “kind and considerate” to people who still decide to wear a mask. He also announced that today’s update would be the end of his weekly COVID-19 updates.
What does this all mean for condo residents? Well, it depends on building demographics and condo boards. Ultimately, the “to mask up or not to mask up” decision is at the discretion of individual condo boards -- not unlike the decision to open amenity spaces like pools in the first place earlier in the pandemic.
“This mandate has blown up my inbox from board members,” says Robert Klopot, President and CEO of The Forest Hill Group, a Toronto-based property management consulting firm and luxury property concierge company. “We were a little blindsided by this; it came quickly at us.”
Klopot says that varying demographics have different opinions on mask wearing, acknowledging that elderly residents have different sensitivities.
“The 50-plus crowd wants to still move very slowly and make sure that their residents are ok with not wearing masks -- one has called for a town hall,” says Klopot. “Then you have the 30 to 40-year-olds, who just can’t wait to be done with them forever. So, it’s going to be tricky times, because I can already see a divide.”
The Forest Hill Group won’t flex a policy one way or another, says Klopot. Rather, the company will work with their clients and their specific wants and needs.
“I had one board member from one community tell me that they didn’t feel comfortable having someone breathing heavy next to them on a treadmill and other people working out without masks because we aren’t checking for vaccination statuses,” said Klopot. “Our reply was that we understand, and if it’s the board’s policy, we will move it forward to be vigilant on masks. But the province has said that the mask mandate will be dropped on March 21, so if it’s a uniform policy that we’re moving out of this phase, then maybe that should be the consideration of common element spaces, elevators, and amenities as well.”
Klopot says Toronto will see extremes when it comes to individual condos. “I know that a handful will continue to ask our staff to wear them, but it’s an entirely different thing when it comes to policies for residents,” he says. “As a service provider, if they say that’s the rule to protect their communities, we’ll have to follow it.”
Klopot does acknowledge, however, that there is a general consensus from the Forest Hill Group’s portfolio of properties that people do want to drop the masks and move on with their lives.
“They don’t want to continue wearing masks in the common element spaces,” he says. “We have increased cleaning standards in place, and that won’t change. But I do think that relaxed approach to mask wearing is welcome news. However, we’ve seen people in some of our older communities unfortunately die from this disease. I know that we’ll respond differently to these communities than those that house a younger crowd.”
Should your condo building decide to drop the mask mandate, the bottom line is that you should "do you" and respect others for their own decisions regarding mask wearing.