Ontario’s lifting of mask mandates Monday leaves some with tough choice

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Ontario to lift most mask mandates'
COVID-19: Ontario to lift most mask mandates
As we get ready for the mask mandates to be lifted, not everyone is ready to take them off. Some experts also question if the move is being made too fast for Ontario to lift mask mandates. Frazer Snowdon has more – Mar 19, 2022

It’s been nearly two years since we’ve been wearing masks but come Monday, they won’t be mandated anymore.

The province is now leaving it up to residents to make the choice to wear one or not.

But the idea of shedding another layer of protection is something not everyone is so sure about.

“I see why people are doing it,” says Bill Fisher. “I’m not sure when the timing is right, but I’d rather follow the medical advice.”

As of March 21, masks will be completely optional in most settings including restaurants, schools, gyms, malls, grocery stores and other public buildings. For some residents, that’s okay.

“I think it’s hurt too many people on too many levels,” says Mark Potter. “I think it’s time to relax the restrictions.”

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“We need to find a way to move forward,” says Jill Morgan, who was walking with her young child. “I plan on continuing to wear one and my child as well.”

It’s a precarious position to be in for business owners as some may not quite be ready to take masks off. Jennifer Jones, the co-owner of Seagull Classics, says it may be too soon for some customers.

“I am a little worried about it,” she says, as her parents were both working in the store. The business has been a staple in the beaches in Toronto for the past 34 years. She says for now they will keep wearing masks to protect her family.

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“I do have my elderly mother who works here, so she could potentially have worse effects,” she says. “I think I’ll keep my mask on for a bit.”

Further down Queen Street, some staff at a popular breakfast joint are looking forward to a new beginning.

“I feel good,” says Jenny-Lynn Clarke, a server at Sunset Grill. “I’m totally ready, let’s do it.”

Vaccine passports and capacity limits have been lifted in almost all facilities now, leaving some families to have to decide whether they want to take on the risk going out for a meal may pose.

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The scenario is a little worrisome for some parents. Shannon Kao and her family are trying to get back to some normalcy, taking their child out once again. But she says with things slowly changing, and case numbers still high — they aren’t sure where they sit with the idea as their three-year-old is still unvaccinated.

“We gotta move on though,” says Kao. “I mean, I feel very conflicted, yes conflicted.”

“I think everyone has complicated feelings about it,” she adds. “In a way, we have to move forward.”

Infectious Diseases Specialist Anna Banerji says dropping the mandate province-wide forgets vulnerable populations, including children and First Nations communities.

“When you make these generalizations for Ontario and leave out certain vulnerable groups, it puts populations at higher risk,” says Banerji.

“First Nations communities are having outbreaks as well, and some of these areas are not highly vaccinated.”

Banerji says although she recognizes that children aren’t a high risk necessarily, they can transmit the virus to a more vulnerable family member.

“(Some) families are not going to choose their masks with their kids. If they are exposed at school, then the elderly grandparents or mother on chemotherapy, they are at risk,” she says.

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Meantime, Canada’s top doctor, Theresa Tam, says although mandates are being dropped in several provinces, she encourages Canadians to continue to wear masks.

“We’re in a period of uncertainty where the virus is still undergoing evolution,” Tam said.

“So getting vaccines plus wearing a mask is still a really good idea.”

Click to play video: 'Ontarians must weigh the risks with mask mandate coming to an end'
Ontarians must weigh the risks with mask mandate coming to an end

But not everyone is skeptical of dropping them. Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician, says given the options of what we have now, including vaccinations and other pharmaceutical choices for those impacted, we need to assess how we move forward.

“I think we have to take a really good look at the evidence over the past two years,” he says.

“We need to be honest with ourselves about things like other non-pharmaceutical intervention like masks and what they can do. And if it is worth the risk trade-off by mandating it to the entire population.”

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Mandates will still be in place for health-care settings, such as hospitals, as well as long-term care homes, public transit, shelters and other areas. They will be lifted in late April — as the province tries to move forward.

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