Ontario should have expanded masking for all high-risk settings, new science table leader says

The head of Ontario’s Pandemic Expert Advisory Table said while key indicators suggest COVID-19 in the province is improving, he would have liked to see any remaining mask mandates in settings. high risk in place for a bit longer.

On Wednesday, the province’s chief medical officer of health announced that most mandatory mask rules will expire on Saturday, including on public transit and in hospitals. Masks will still be needed in long-term care homes and retirement homes across Ontario after Saturday,

Dr. Fahad Razak, the new scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Table, told CBC Radio Subway morning the provincial requirement could have been extended for at least another four weeks to help relieve some of the pressure on hospitals who will now have to enforce their own mask rules.

“I am heartened to see that many hospitals have already announced that they will continue to require them,” Razak said Thursday. « I guess you’ll find that most institutions will require it. »

Razak, who is also an internist at Unity Health Toronto, said while key indicators including sewage data, positivity rate, hospitalizations and intensive care unit counts suggest the COVID-19 situation in the province is improving, there is still a lot of pressure on hospitals with sick or burnt staff.

Extending mask rules would have continued to provide an « extra buffer » of protection, he said.

Razak said while many health experts wanted to see the warrants extended, the decision to lift them was primarily a « judgment call » from the province.

« That decision had to be made at some point…I have to fully recognize that there’s no exact number you can hang your hat on, » he said.

« It is impossible for anyone to say that today or tomorrow is exactly the right day. »

Masks « highly recommended » in certain contexts

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday he made his decision based on high vaccination rates and improvements in the province’s COVID-19 situation.

Provincial masking requirements in areas such as public transit, health care facilities, long-term care homes and retirement homes were originally set to expire on April 27, but that deadline was extended earlier this year until June 11.

“The province will continue to monitor any material changes, including any new variants of concern, to ensure we adapt our response to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians,” he said.

Rules requiring people to wear masks on public transport and in most health care facilities will expire at 12 p.m. Saturday. Mask requirements were lifted in most other settings in March, along with essentially all other public health measures aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

Masks are still « strongly recommended » in high-risk gathering places like group homes and shelters, according to its statement.

Hospital networks will continue their masking policy

The province said organizations can set their own mask policies and people should continue to wear masks if they are at high risk of contracting the disease, are recovering from COVID-19, have symptoms or have been in contact. with someone with the disease.

Guidance on mask requirements for healthcare workers will also expire on Saturday and will be replaced by guidance from the Ministry of Health on when masks should be worn in hospitals and other healthcare workplaces.

Some hospitals, including the University Health Network in Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, said Wednesday they would keep masking policies in place.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Transit Commission, which operates public transit in Ontario’s most populous city, said masks would remain mandatory for staff and customers of its Wheel-Trans accessible transit service. , and are still highly recommended for those borrowing from the larger system.

Ontario reported 522 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 11 additional deaths on Wednesday.


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