Moore says most organizations can now make own masking decisions

TORONTO – Most remaining mandatory mask rules in Ontario, including those requiring that people wear masks when riding public transit or visiting hospitals, will expire on Saturday.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday that he made the decision based on high vaccination rates and improvements in the provincial COVID-19 situation.

In a written statement, he thanked residents and asked for sustained vigilance against the virus by keeping up with vaccinations and staying home when sick.

“The province will continue to monitor for any significant changes, including any new variants of concern, to ensure we are adapting our response to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians,” he said.

Rules requiring that people wear masks on public transit and most health-care settings will expire at 12:00 a.m. on Saturday. Mask requirements lifted in most other settings in March, along with essentially all other public health measures aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

However, masks will still be required in Ontario long-term care homes and retirement homes after Saturday, a decision Moore said is meant to protect the most vulnerable.

Masks are still “strongly recommended” in high-risk congregate settings like group homes and shelters, his statement said.

The province said organizations can keep their own mask policies and people should keep masking if they are high-risk for the illness, are recovering from COVID-19, have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has the illness.

Directives around mask requirements for health workers will also expire on Saturday and be replaced by Health Ministry guidance outlining when masks should be worn in hospitals and other health workplaces.

Some hospitals indicated Wednesday that they would keep masking policies in place, including Toronto’s University Health Network.

“We treat some of the most-immune compromised patients, and we are committed to providing the safest possible environment for everyone in the hospital,” spokeswoman Gillian Howard said.