ONTARIO – On Wednesday, March 9, 2022, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health announced that Ontario will remove COVID-19 masking requirements for most settings as of March 21, 2022.
“With continued improvements in trends, Ontario will remove the mandatory masking requirement for most settings on March 21, with the exceptions of select settings, such as public transit, health care settings, long term care homes, and high risk congregate settings,” he said.
Moore emphasized that current indicators show that the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to ebb in the province with hospitalization rates and fatality rates decreasing.
“It has now been more than a week since we have lifted most of the remaining provincial, public, health, and workplace safety measures in our cautious phase approach in Ontario,” said Dr. Moore. “Key public health indicators continue to remain stable, or are improving in most areas of the province. The per cent positivity of tests is generally stable, and new admissions to hospitals and ICU have been stable, or declining”.
Dr. Moore also gave an update on the Omicron variant in the province.
“With the peak of Omicron behind us, Ontario has been able to cautiously, and gradually move through its reopening milestones,” said Dr. Moore. “We are now learning to live with, and manage COVID-19 for the long term,” he added.
Dr. Kieran Moore emphasizes that removing mask mandates does not mean that the risk of COVID-19 is gone, as COVID-19 transmission is still occurring across Ontario. The mask mandate being removed may cause an increase in cases and hospitalisations he warned.
“In fact, we can expect indicators such as cases and hospitalisations to increase slightly as Ontario increasingly interacts with one another,” said Dr. Moore. “However, thanks to our high vaccinations rates, and our natural immunity that is developing, as well as the arrival of other therapeutics and antivirals, Ontario has the tools necessary to manage the impacts of this virus”
On March 1, Dr. Kieran Moore revoked the instructions for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies for the Ontario public service, and for post secondary institutions. Currently, there is a process underway to revoke all directives and instructions by the end of April.
Dr. Moore gave information on changes to Ontario’s isolation guidelines.
“The changes include, updating isolation recommendations for household members, and close contact of individuals who test positive for COVID-19, or have symptoms of COVID-19. Previously, everyone in the household of someone who was sick, or had tested positive had to stay home. With these new changes, household members do not have to stay at home if they are 18 years older, and have already received their booster dose, or if they are 18 years of age and under, but are fully vaccinated,” he said.
Individuals who are not household members that have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 are no longer required to self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status. It is still recommended to self monitor for 10 days, and wear a mask when outside the house.
The government of Ontario will still continue to provide free masks for students and teachers who choose to wear them in schools. The government has also made 3.6 million antigen rapid tests available to school boards, and child care settings every two weeks.
The update was the last scheduled weekly COVID-19 update.
“I want to thank Ontariens for their resilience and commitment to the community, as we have navigated this global pandemic together,” said Dr. Moore. “Your sacrifices and collective actions have made a difference.”