Ontario’s top doctor to speak as mask mandates set to be dropped

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore will provide an update on the pandemic at 11 a.m.

CBC News will carry that news conference live in the player above.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health is set to make an announcement this morning, as CBC News has learned the province will drop most COVID-19 mask mandates — including in schools, restaurants and stores — across the province on March 21.

Two sources with the province’s Progressive Conservative government confirmed the information, first reported by the Toronto Star, Tuesday night.

Dr. Kieran Moore is set to provide an update on how the province plans to “live with and manage COVID-19” at 11 a.m.

The news conference will replace what was to be Moore’s final planned pandemic briefing, which was originally scheduled for Thursday.

While Ford wouldn’t confirm any specific dates ahead of Moore’s announcement, he did say that Ontario will remain cautious even after mask mandates are dropped, adding that “anyone who wants to wear a mask [is] more than welcome to.”

“If you want to keep your mask on, keep it on. If you want to take it off, take it off,” Ford said.   

Dr. Peter Jüni, who heads Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said “it’s too early to tell” if removing mask mandates is the right move at this time.​

However, he said Ontarians have done well when it comes to masking and said he hopes many will continue to wear them — adding he will continue to do so himself.

​”There’s a lot of solidarity going on,” Jüni told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Wednesday.

“For the majority of us, masks are not a big deal.” 

‘Toronto is at a dramatically different point’

In a letter to city council, Toronto’s medical officer of health also recommended that the city’s mask bylaw expire when mask requirements in the Reopening Ontario Act are revoked or amended.

“Toronto is at a dramatically different point in the pandemic compared to when the Mask Bylaw came into effect,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa in the letter.

While the city may no longer enforce the mask bylaw, de Villa noted that lifting masking requirements does not preclude people from wearing a mask.

“Toronto Public Health continues to recommend wearing well-fitted, high-quality masks, particularly in crowded indoor spaces with limited ventilation, amongst other steps that Torontonians can take to protect themselves and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, such as accessing their third vaccine dose, practicing physical distancing, and participating in activities outdoors where possible,” the letter reads.

The province has already begun rolling back some pandemic health measures, as it lifted proof-of-vaccination rules for certain businesses as well as capacity limits for businesses and social gatherings last week.

Moore has said in recent weeks that mask mandates will be lifted in the province by the end of this month if public health trends continue to improve.

He’s also said he wants to end vaccination policy requirements for some sectors soon, but hasn’t yet laid out a timeline for that.

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