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York Region's MOH calls it an 'interesting time' to remove mask mandates
March 10, 2022

Residents living in York region will no longer be required to wear a mask in many indoor settings starting March 21 as the province ends the mandate.

Following the province's announcement on Wednesday, the region's medical officer of health, Dr. Barry Pakes, tells CTV News the announcement doesn't come as a surprise after weeks of conversations.

"It is an interesting time to be taking off the mask mandates, certainly right after the March Break when many children and families will be going away and then coming back."

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He adds that he feels it is a reasonable measure given that hospitalizations are stabilizing and slowly decreasing, and wastewater data appears promising.

Still, Dr. Pakes says he will continue to encourage the public to wear masks in large groups and other congregate settings.

"Part of our new normal will be, if we're not always wearing a mask, we will have one in our pocket to protect ourselves or perhaps when we need to protect others," he says via Skype.

All patients, residents, visitors and staff in hospitals and other congregate care settings will still be required to wear a mask until at least April 27.

Dr. Pakes explains that the reason why care settings will still require masks is due to vulnerable patients.

He says removing mask mandates will leave many vulnerable people susceptible to other respiratory viruses, where masks could help provide additional protection.

Public transit users will also be required to wear masks for at least another month.

Dr. Pakes says wearing a mask on public transit will help reduce the risk of exposure in close quarters inside the bus or train.

"The biggest impact of masks has been when everyone wears them; source protection, in other words, protecting other people," says Dr. Pakes.

 As provinces lift mandates, federal officials say mask-wearing a 'personal choice'
York Region's top doctor notes the "significant change" to Ontario's isolation guidance if exposed to COVID-19.

Individuals exposed to the virus outside their household no longer need to self-isolate regardless of vaccination status.

If a household contact tests positive and that person is over 18 and had a booster shot, or is 18 and older and fully vaccinated, or has recovered from a COVID-19 infection in the past 90 days, that individual will no longer need to self-isolate.

"We are going to continue to monitor how things go with that change," concludes Dr. Pakes.