Ontario’s top doctor thinks mask mandate extension ‘might be necessary’: Health minister

The remaining mask mandate in Ontario is set to drop later this month, but Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday the province’s top doctor thinks extending the measure “might be necessary.”

“I know that that is something that Dr. Moore has been studying, ”Elliott told reporters in Toronto at an unrelated news conference.

Elliott’s comments are in line with those made by Moore last week, where he suggested masking in places frequented by individuals vulnerable to COVID-19, like public transit, hospitals, and long-term care homes, would remain in place beyond April 27 the deadline .

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“We will maintain that level of masking after April 27 for probably 28 days, and then further reassess at that point, so that the most vulnerable members of our community are protected,” the Chief Medical Officer of Health told CP24 at the time.

However, Elliott noted that despite Moore’s inclination to keep masks in certain settings, she said the provincial government has not yet received any official guidance from the doctor on the subject.

“He’s indicated that he is thinking that that might be necessary. However, we have not seen a formal recommendation as yet from Dr. Moore. ”

The requirement to wear a mask in places like schools, restaurants, gyms, and many other settings was lifted on March 21 – a move that Public Health Ontario has suggested is linked to the recent increase in case numbers and hospitalizations related to the virus.

In the face of those rising COVID-19 metrics – which the government has said was not unexpected as public health restrictions lift – it’s unlikely that a provincewide mask mandate would be reintroduced, Elliott said.

A man wearing a protective mask walks past air ventilation ducting exiting the windows from patient hospital rooms at the Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto on Monday, April 4, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Nathan Denette

“Dr. Moore does not believe, at this point, that we need to return to everyone wearing masks wherever they are, ”she said, while acknowledging the“ slight increase ”in hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

“Based on the modeling that’s been done by the science advisory table, we do not anticipate that this is going to hit the same heights that were reached in the fifth peak.”

Elliott pointed to Ontario’s high-rate of vaccination, access to antivirals and increased hospital capacity as reasons why the province is equipped to deal with any potential surge in cases.

The aforementioned COVID-19 modeling released by Ontario’s science table last week suggests that hospital occupancy will continue to rise in the coming weeks and the province could see more than 600 people in the ICU at the peak of this wave in a worst-case scenario.

For context, during the peak of Ontario’s last COVID-19 wave earlier this year, ICU admissions reached 626.

Moore – like Elliott – has maintained the province’s health-care system can provide adequate care for those individuals if ICU admissions do in fact return to the levels seen in January.

As of today, hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 in Ontario have reached 1,486 and the number of patients in the ICU with the virus is 206.

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