Ontarians should continue to wear masks in all public indoor settings and the plan for the further removal of the mask mandate later this month is being “actively reviewed” amid a sixth wave of COVID-19
That’s the message from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, who spoke publicly on Monday about the spread of the virus for the first time in nearly a month. He made the remarks while announcing expanded PCR testing and treatments for COVID-19 in the province.
“There are actions that we can take to help manage the impact of this wave,” Moore said at Queen’s Park. “These include a strong recommendation to continue wearing a well-fitted, three-layer mask or use of a medical mask in all public indoor settings.”
Moore’s comments come as the province continues to grapple with the latest rise in cases and hospitalizations related to the novel coronavirus. Last week, the head of the province’s science table said Ontario is likely seeing as many as 120,000 new cases of COVID-19 each day, based on wastewater analysis.
The provincial government ended the mask mandate in most indoor settings on March 21 following an omicron-fuelled wave of infections at the beginning of the year.
A mask mandate remains for public transit and high-risk settings in Ontario. That is set to expire on April 27, but Moore said Monday Ontario is “actively reviewing it,” and it would make ‘tremendous sense to maintain that.”
Moore delivered his last scheduled public COVID-19 news conference on March 13 as cases and hospitalizations declined following the January surge. He said at the time he would only deliver remarks on the spread of COVID-19 in the province on an as needed basis beyond that date.
Asked why he had not spoken publicly about the recent rise in COVID-19 metrics, Moore explained that data on transmission of the virus “has been available to all Ontarians.”
“The purpose of coming out today is to reiterate yes, we are in a sixth wave, yes, we’ll see a rise in admissions to hospital and the intensive care unit,” Moore said, adding that these public health indicators are likely to continue for the next several weeks.
His remarks come as hospitalizations related to COVID-19 climbed beyond the 1,000 mark last week for the first time since February.
Moore said that at the peak of this current wave of infections, Ontario could see as many as 600 patients in intensive care. However, he underscored that health and human resources remain available to provide adequate care for those individuals.
The province’s top doctor was also asked about whether he would consider bringing back the mask mandate in schools due to a recent increase in infections among fully vaccinated children, to which he responded that currently, there is no “significant” rise in the risk to children.
“Of all of Ontario’s 2.75 million children, there’s two in the intensive care unit right now,” Moore said. “On average. we’re having 30 to 60 children admitted to hospital — some of those are incidental admissions to hospital as well — over a one-week period. So we’ve not seen any significant threat to the health of children.”
At an unrelated news conference, Premier Doug Ford was asked whether Moore’s recommendation to wear a mask indoors conflicts with the provincial government’s decision to lift the measure last month.
“I think it really comes down to common sense,” Ford said. “We’ve been through this for two years. When you walk into a real crowded room, throw the mask on. No one is going to force you — but I would recommend it.”
Last week, Ford defended Moore’s absence from the public eye saying the CMOH was “on the job 24/7.”