As the provincial government lifts the remaining public health and workplace safety measures on March 21st, masks will no longer be required in public places, including schools.
“We are in a place where masking and other restrictions can be removed in most circumstances due to a significant decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and outbreaks as well as high levels of vaccination among people older than 12 years old and increasing vaccine uptake in students aged 5 to 11 years old,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU). “For this, I am grateful to the community.”
However, individuals will still be required to wear masks in the following circumstances and settings:
- When taking public transit
- Health care settings
- Long-term care homes
- Congregate care settings
Masks remain an effective tool to prevent COVID-19 infections
While we’re now in a transition phase towards more normalcy, we’re still in a pandemic and masks remain an effective tool at curbing the number of COVID-19 infections in the community.
Dr. Roumeliotis therefore recommends the continued use of masks in situations where the risk of transmission is higher, such as crowded indoor and poorly ventilated places, or when in close contact with unvaccinated or ill people. The decision to wear a mask should be based on an individual’s risk tolerance based on any underlying health conditions or their age, as well as their comfort levels.
“For the time being, I will personally continue wearing a mask when I find myself in crowded indoor spaces or poorly ventilated places,” says Dr. Roumeliotis.
“As we transition into this new stage of the pandemic, I want to remind everyone to be kind and respectful of each other,” states Dr. Roumeliotis. “We truly are all in this together, and the transition to living alongside COVID-19 will be much smoother if everyone respects each other’s choices.”
Masks no longer mandatory in schools
The lifting of public health and workplace safety measures will also apply to schools. Students as well as education and school transportation staff will no longer be required to wear masks as of the return to school on March 21st.
Students and school staff will still be required to wear masks in the following circumstances:
- When exposed to a case of COVID-19 at home or in the community
- When taking public transportation to and from school (excluding school buses)
- When returning from international travel
“I want to reassure the public that the EOHU will continue working with school partners in the weeks and months ahead to ensure everyone’s safety throughout the school year.”
While no longer mandatory in schools, students, parents, and staff may continue to wear masks based on their own personal risk assessment/situation, and they should not be bullied or intimated in any way for choosing to do so.
Finally, as we enter this next phase of restriction and mandate removals, the public, including students and school personnel, is reminded that the following measures still need to be taken:
- Get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, if eligible
- Screen for symptoms and stay home when sick
- Use Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) as necessary
- Wash your hands frequently
- Cough and sneeze into your arm
- Wear a mask when required or based on your individual risk or situation
For more information about the provincial government’s lifting of the remaining public health and workplace safety measures, visit EOHU.ca.