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Ford defends lifting mask mandate this month as Mississauga's mayor raises concerns about timing of move
March 11, 2022
Chris Fox

Premier Doug Ford is defending his government’s decision to lift the mask mandate in most settings in less than two weeks, even as one GTA mayor questions the timing of the move.

At a briefing on Thursday, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie told reporters she thinks it is a “bit too soon” to lift the mask mandate in most settings as of March 21 given that proof of vaccination requirements were only recently removed.

But at a subsequent news conference to unveil a new transportation infrastructure plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Ford stood by the decision while acknowledging that he will continue to wear a mask when he visits his mother-in-law in her long-term care home. He also said that he would choose to wear a mask whenever he is inside a hospital, even after the requirement for that setting is lifted in April.

“There has to be a point after two years of going through this where people have a choice,” he said. “We can't live with this for forever and I'm always following the advice of Dr. (Kieran) Moore, our chief medical officer and he is saying the same thing. You know, people are going to have a choice based on their health condition. If they want to wear a mask, God bless them, good for them and no one should bother them about that either.”

The Ford government has said that it will lift the mask mandate in most settings, including schools, as of March 21.

The mandate, however, will remain in effect for a number of high-risk settings, including public transit, long-term care and retirement homes, health-care settings, congregate care settings, shelters and jails, until April 27.

Speaking with reporters earlier on Thursday, Crombie said that she does “anticipate” that Mississauga City Council will vote to lift a local masking bylaw when they meet on March 23 in order to be in alignment with the province.

But she also expressed unease at the pace at which some restrictions are being lifted and said that the province should consider keeping mandatory masking in place in the remaining high-risk settings past April 27 “should health trends warrant.”

“It's clear that we all have the right ingredients in place to start getting back to normal. But I entirely understand why some people think lifting the mask mandate on March 21 is a bit too soon. Frankly, I do too, particularly because we just eased the last remaining capacity limits on businesses and other settings as well as proof of vaccination requirements and haven't had a chance to see what the impacts might be on our hospitals,” she said. “Right now they're in a good place but we still need time to recover and ramp back up to full surgical capacity.”

The Ford government’s decision to lift the mask mandate comes amid a significant decline in hospitalizations.

As recently as Jan. 22 there were more than 4,000 people in hospitals testing positive for the virus but as of today that number has dropped to 742.

In an interview with CP24 earlier on Thursday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore conceded that “there is controversy with every decision” but stressed that Ontario is in a “very good place” right now that allows it to safely begin to lift the mask mandate.

Ford also noted that Ontario is simply following the lead of other provinces, which have already announced plans to remove mask mandates.

“Keep in mind the whole world is doing the same thing, all of North America is doing the same thing. We aren’t leading the pack,” he said.

Ontarians have been required by law to wear masks in indoor public settings since July, 2020.