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Mask mandates: Here’s where provinces and territories stand amid expert pleas

Click to play video: 'Dr. Isaac Bogoch answers questions about masks, hospitals and children’s medication'
Dr. Isaac Bogoch answers questions about masks, hospitals and children’s medication
WATCH: Ontario is strongly recommending residents mask up again as the triple threat of RSV, flu and COVID-19 spreads throughout the province and across the country. – Nov 15, 2022

See the latest news and updates on mask mandates in Canada here.

In recent months, many Canadian health care workers, experts and some members of the public have been calling on provincial governments to bring back mask mandates as respiratory illness rages across the country.

Besides the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Canada is also dealing with influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). On Monday, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) reported that the country is entering an influenza epidemic, where cases of the flu rise further beyond the seasonal threshold.

Although Canada’s chief public health officer Theresa Tam said in a press conference that masking is still recommended, the implementation of a mask mandate is “up to the provincial authorities to decide what they might do in their own context.”

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Here’s what the provinces and territories are doing so far.

Alberta

Alberta’s Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said she will listen to the province’s new chief medical health officer on whether to bring in mask mandates in schools on Wednesday.

LaGrange said students and staff are welcome to wear masks, but the government doesn’t anticipate going to a mask mandate.

Earlier this week, Dr. Mark Joffe was appointed chief medical officer to replace Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Joffe hasn’t been made available to comment on the respiratory viruses that are also straining hospitals.

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On Monday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith told reporters that the province will not permit any further masking mandates of children in Alberta’s K-12 education system.

Smith has said several times that Alberta will not bring back mask mandates to classrooms despite more and more students staying at home due to illness, Global News reported.

Alberta’s top priority right now is to deal with the shortage of children’s Tylenol and long wait times at emergency rooms, said Smith.

Click to play video: 'Meds over masking:  Premier Smith reiterates no school mask mandate as viral cases rise in Alberta'
Meds over masking: Premier Smith reiterates no school mask mandate as viral cases rise in Alberta

British Columbia

B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday that she doesn’t believe a mask mandate is currently needed

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“I do not believe we need the heavy hand of a mandate to send a clear message that masks are an important tool that we can all use during this time and in every respiratory season,” said Henry. “We should have one with us, we should use it in situations where it makes sense.”

A group of organizations called on B.C.’s premier-designate David Eby, Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside to immediately reinstate a mask mandate in all public spaces, Global News reported Tuesday.

Eby, Dix and Whiteside have not responded to the letter yet.

B.C dropped its mask mandate for public indoor spaces on March 11.

Manitoba

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson had said that the province still has no plan to bring back a mask mandate.

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She added that people are encouraged to wear a mask if they’re sick.

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Manitoba dropped all COVID-19 related restrictions, including mask mandates, on March 15, and the province’s website states that “individuals may choose to wear a mask based on personal preference.”

New Brunswick

In a statement to Global News, New Brunswick’s Department of Health stated that masking has become “a personal choice based on their personal level of risk.”

“Public Health has recommended, and continues to recommend, that New Brunswickers assess their own risk levels when determining the precautions they should use in their day-to-day lives regarding COVID-19 and other seasonal viruses,” it reads.

The department added that public health officials will determine whether a new approach is necessary “if the situation changes,” and will make new recommendations to the provincial government.

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Click to play video: 'Talk of masking in New Brunswick as respiratory illnesses spike'
Talk of masking in New Brunswick as respiratory illnesses spike

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia dropped all public masking mandates in July, and currently has no plans to re-introduce such mandates.

Wearing a mask is only one of the many ways for Nova Scotians to protect themselves and their loved ones from the spread of COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory viruses like RSV, said the Department of Health and Wellness in an email to Global News.

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“We encourage everyone to continue their healthy habits learned and to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 and flu vaccines,” it reads. “As we have been doing throughout the pandemic, Public Health continues to assess recommendations and will inform Nova Scotians if any changes are made.”

Ontario

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Sunday that Ontarians should wear a mask at any time if possible, but he did not answer question on whether the province will mandate masking.

On Monday, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore asked people to wear masks regularly as emergency departments prepare for “an extreme surge” amid influenza season and increasing pressure from respiratory illnesses.

Ontario’s health minister Sylvia Jones said on Tuesday that it’s a personal choice to wear a mask.

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Prince Edward Island

In a statement to Global News, the government of Prince Edward Island (PEI) said the province is experiencing an increase in respiratory illnesses, like other provinces across Canada.

“The mask mandate remains in place for hospitals, and long-term care and community care homes in PEI,” it reads. “At this time, there is no public mask mandate in place.”

Quebec

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé asked citizens to wear a mask in crowded, public places at a news conference on Wednesday.

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“We don’t want a perfect storm,” said Dubé. “And that’s why we’re asking Quebecers to take action and to protect themselves as much as possible to limit the combined effect of those three viruses.”

However, the province stopped short of issuing a mask mandate amid increasing respiratory illness.

Click to play video: 'Quebec has no plans to reinstate mask mandate: Legault'
Quebec has no plans to reinstate mask mandate: Legault

Quebec Premier François Legault said on Tuesday the government will not reinstate a mask mandate for public spaces.

The Quebec College of Physicians tweeted on Sunday that the public should wear masks as the province battles with the surge of respiratory viral diseases in children and the overflow of pediatric emergencies.

Quebec ended its mask mandate for indoor public spaces on May 14 and lifted the mask mandate for public transit on June 18.

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Saskatchewan

In an email to Global News, the Saskatchewan government said the province does not have any plans to bring back mask mandates.

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Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman told reporters on Monday that he doesn’t think there has to be mask mandates, adding that it is an individual’s decision to wear them.

There has been no discussions or recommendations from Saskatchewan’s top doctor Dr. Saqib Shahab about bring back mask mandates at the moment, said Merriman.

Northwest Territories

In an email to Global News, the government of Northwest Territories stated that masking and other larger public health orders are no longer mandatory in the territory as of April 1 since the public health emergency has ended.

“Current recommendations are to stay home when you are sick; practice healthy habits, such as washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough; stay up to date with vaccinations; and mask if you are at high-risk for severe outcomes or will be participating in higher risk activities,” it reads, adding that the recommendations do not only apply to COVID-19 but to all respiratory illnesses.

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Newfoundland and Labrador

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said the province will not implement a mask mandate as such a measure could only be brought in under public health emergency in a press conference on Tuesday.

“Without a public health emergency, the CMOH can’t bring in any mask mandates,” said Fitzgerald.

“At this point I don’t think we have the evidence to support bringing in the mandates,” said Fitzgerald, adding that Newfoundland and Labrador is not seeing as many flu and COVID-19 cases in other provinces.

Nunavut

On July 14, the government of Nunavut announced that masks are no longer mandated by public health order for health facilities across Nunavut.

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Although mask are no longer mandatory in Nunavut schools and in provincial government workplaces, all community health centres, Elders’ facilities and the Qikiqtani General Hospitaland Akausisarvik in Iqaluit will continue to require patients and staff to wear masks.

Yukon

Yukon lifted its state of emergency and most of its COVID-19 public health measures on March 18, Yukon Premier Sandy Silver announced in March.

Yukon also dropped mask mandates in schools as of May 24.

— with files from Global’s Aaron D’Andrea, Amy Judd, Meaghan Archer, Isaac Callan, Colin D’Mello, Timothy Sargeant, Kalina Laframboise and The Canadian Press

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