TORONTO – Despite rising COVID-19 case counts, indoor mask mandates will not return says the province’s top doctor.
Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of health for Ontario provided his first COVID-19 update in over a month on April 11.
COVID-19 infection levels, fueled by the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant and the relaxing of most public health measures, have returned to levels unseen since early February.
On April 11, the province reported nearly 1,000 hospitalizations and 185 people admitted to Intensive Care.
During his update, Moore told reporters that the province is expanding PCR testing for higher risk Ontarians again. Widespread PCR testing was limited in January during the peak of the fifth wave of pandemic. Increased testing coincides with increased access to antiviral treatments for COVID-19.
“I am pleased that will be able to offer more accessible antiviral treatment options to more people across Ontario,” Moore said.
Access to medication like Paxlovid, which was approved in January by Health Canada, will be available to immunocompromised people over age 18, and for all people age 70 and over. Also included in the eligibility are people age 60 and older with fewer than three vaccine doses, and people age 18 and older with fewer than three vaccine doses and at least one at-risk condition.
Antiviral treatments like Paxlovid must start within five days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms.
The province is launching a network of pharmacies to dispense the treatment where needed. About 750 pharmacies in Ontario will take part in the initial roll out.
Moore said during his briefing that indoor mask mandates will not be re-introduced at this time, and that remaining public health measures that were to expire April 27 are likely to be expanded.
The COVID-19 Science Table has recommended returning to mask mandates in indoor settings like schools and retail. Indoor mask mandates were lifted in late-March.
Moore said that he strongly recommended people wear face masks in indoor settings to keep COVID-19 transmission lower. He also continued to push for more vaccinations and boosters as a way to prevent severe infection from the virus.
Moore confirmed the province is in a sixth wave of the pandemic.
Ontario expanded fourth-dose or second boosters for certain segments of the population where it has been more than 140 days since the third dose was given.