Masks will no longer be required in most of the last places where they were still mandatory, including public transit, as of Saturday, the province’s chief medical officer of health has announced.
“With high vaccination rates and Ontario’s COVID-19 situation continuing to improve, most of the province’s remaining provincial masking requirements, including on public transit, will expire as of 12 a.m. on June 11, 2022,” Dr. Kieran Moore said in a statement posted on the government’s website Wednesday.
Masks will still be required in long-term-care and retirement homes, according to the provincial news release. But they will be only recommended in other settings such as hospitals and shelters. Organizations can implement their own policies on masking, even as this provincial mandate expires.
The province lifted mask requirements for most indoor settings including schools, movie theatres, sports stadiums, stores, gyms and restaurants on March 21. Mask requirements for high-risk settings — such as doctors’ offices, public transit, hospitals, shelters, retirement and long-term-care homes and labs — were kept in place until April 27 and then extended as cases spiked earlier this spring. They were set to expire on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the University Health Network and Sunnybrook will continue with the current masking requirements in their hospitals beyond June 11, spokespersons confirmed to the Star on Tuesday.
According to the province, remaining directives will be “revoked and replaced with Ministry of Health guidance for health-care workers and organizations,” including guidance on when masks should be worn in hospitals and other health-care settings.
GTA emergency doctor Steve Flindall slammed the decision not to extend the mask mandate for hospitals.
High-risk patients are now going to have to “navigate a minefield” to get care he said, “all for the sake of saying, ‘don’t put a piece of cloth over your face.’”
Flindall added that doctors and nurses are continuing to go off sick with COVID, and it shouldn’t be up to hospitals to make their own policies.
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“There’s no logic that anybody can possibly explain to me,” he said.
The provincial announcement noted that “Ontarians should continue to wear a mask if they feel it is right for them, are at high risk for severe illness, recovering from COVID-19, have symptoms of the virus or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19.”
The City of Toronto will continue to require masks for shelters, 24-hour respite and 24-hour women’s drop-in sites, according to a news release.
The TTC’s media relations team tweeted Wednesday that the mask rules will end Saturday as planned, but masks are still strongly recommended.
Masks are still mandatory on Wheel-Trans for staff and customers, a decision that was made “in consultation” with accessible transit advisers.
Masks will be optional on GO Transit and UP Express as of Saturday, according to the city.
“While the end of the provincial mask mandate is a sign that we are cautiously and gradually returning to normal, we know that COVID-19 has not disappeared and are still strongly recommending the continued use of masks on the TTC,” said TTC chair Jaye Robinson in a media release.
“Wearing a mask is a small measure we all can take to help keep our communities safe.”
May Warren is a Toronto-based breaking news reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11
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