Ontario takes off masks mandate on March 21
Ontario will end mandatory mask use in most indoor settings, including schools, on March 21st, the province’s top doctor said on Wednesday.
The province said improving health indicators, such as a stable COVID-19 test positivity rate and declining hospitalizations, as well as Ontario’s high vaccination rates and the availability of antiviral treatments, allow for these steps.
Masks will continue to be required on public transit, and in long-term care homes, shelters, jails and other congregate care facilities.
The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, announced the new changes Wednesday, saying that “We are now learning to live with and manage COVID-19 for the long term,” Moore said. “This necessitates a shift to a more balanced response to the pandemic.” However, Moore said removing the mask mandate “does not mean the risk is gone.”
Individual organizations will be able to keep their own requirements in place, and most hospitals have said they will continue their strict vaccine mandates.
Officials stressed that the official government stance would remain to recommend mask use wherever possible after March 21, but it would no longer be mandatory.
“I know a lot of people don’t want to keep them on and again, we aren’t leading the way in this, we are kind of middle of the back. It’s going to be up to the people of Ontario, if you want to keep the mask on, keep it on,” Premier Doug Ford said in Brantford when asked by a reporter about the changes. “If you want to take it off, take it off. But we have to move forward from this, people are exhausted and the poor kids in those classrooms too. Like we got to move on.”
The rules around self-isolation in the event of exposure are also changing.
Soon, anyone exposed to COVID-19 outside of their household, regardless of vaccination status, will not need to self isolate.
Instead, they must refrain from public activities “where mask removal would be necessary” for 10 days, not visit anyone at high risk of a serious outcome or attend a place such as a hospital for 10 days, and self-monitor for symptoms.
Those exposed to COVID-19 by a member of their household no longer need to self-isolate at all if they are over 18 years-old and boosted, under 18 years-old and fully vaccinated or have recovered from a COVID-19 infection in the past 90 days.
Any unvaccinated person exposed to COVID-19 at home must still self-isolate while the infected household member is self-isolating.