Coinciding with the province’s announcement to lift mask mandates in many indoor public settings, Guelph’s top doctor says she will lift her own masking orders on March 21.
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health was the first in Ontario to mandate face coverings in all indoor public settings in June 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, four months before a provincewide mandate was established.
Medical officer of health Dr. Nicola Mercer said in a statement on Wednesday that as the local public health unit removes orders on masking, it will continue to monitor local COVID-19 conditions and respond as the situation requires.
“While many of us are ready to take this next step, many are not,” she said.
“For families with children under five, members of our community with underlying health conditions and many who are just not ready to get ‘back to normal’, your concerns are very valid. Please continue to follow the public health measures that support your and your families’ needs.”
When Mercer issued the masking orders on June 12, 2020, she said they would be rescinded if there was minimal transmission of COVID-19 locally and a vaccine was available.
Four months later, the Ontario government announced a provincewide masking policy on Oct. 2, 2020.
Mercer’s statement on removing her masking order came shortly after Ontario’s chief medical officer of health made the announcement to remove masks in most public settings.
Masks will no longer be required in most social settings such as restaurants, gyms, large event spaces and even schools.
However, the mask mandate will remain in place for higher-risk settings such as transit, long-term care, retirement homes, hospitals, shelters, jails and congregate care and living settings.
The province said it is removing masking requirements in all remaining settings, as well as any other directives and orders, on April 27.
Mercer said even though masks will be going away, there is still no end date for the pandemic.
“We can each move forward only as quickly as our individual situations dictate,” she said.
“As a community, we have done so much together during this pandemic. We must continue to treat each other with empathy and kindness.”
— with files from Global News’ Gabby Rodrigues