Ontario will be extending mask mandates in select higher-risk indoor settings for at least another month.
Mandatory masking in these settings was set to expire on April 27, but the government confirmed Friday that it was maintaining the mandates until at least June 11, amid a sixth wave of the pandemic.
Settings where masking will continue to be mandatory include retirement homes, doctors’ offices, shelters and congregate care settings that provide care and services to medically and socially vulnerable individuals.
A complete list of settings with mandatory masking can be found here.
“We continue to see community activity with this virus across Ontario and want to continue to protect our most vulnerable members of our community,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore told CTV News Channel on Friday afternoon. “We think it's prudent, reasonable and appropriate to continue to protect those environments. So we're extending it for 45 days past April 27 to approximately June 11. At that time we think that majority of the cases will be back down to a very low endemic risk across Ontario.”
The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has previously suggested that community transmission likely peaked earlier this month when more than 100,000 Ontarians were estimated to be contracting the virus each day.
Hospitalizations, however, are a lagging indicator and have continued to increase albeit not at the same pace Ontario witnessed during the initial Omicron wave this past January.
Moore told CTV News Channel that he expects to see a “small ripple” effect from several recent holidays.
Hospitalizations, he said, would then likely peak sometime in the next seven to 10 days.
“I absolutely want Ontarians to know this is a peak of activity across Ontario right now,” he said. “We had a significant wastewater signal last week, it's just started to decline. We expect a small ripple from the Easter holidays, the Passover holidays, the long weekend that people had. And then the last piece is the impact on the intensive care units. We expect all of that major impact to occur in the next seven to 10 days and then slowly and surely the risk will decrease heading in to the end of May.”
The extension comes after Moore told CP24 last week that the province was planning to keep mask mandates in place for at least another month given the increase of COVID-19 infections in the province.
Mask mandates in other public indoor settings, including schools and retail, were lifted on March 21 and Moore said that he doesn’t anticipate having to reintroduce mandatory masking in those settings.
ONTARIO TO PROVIDE EVUSHELD COVID-19 TREATMENT
The province also announced on Friday that it will soon receive supplies of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 antibody treatment Evusheld and start to administer it in the coming weeks to immunocompromised individuals.
Evusheld is administered in two single-dose injections and provides protection from the virus for up to six months.
The treatment will be available to individuals with the highest-risk of a severe outcome from COVID-19, including:
- solid organ transplant recipients;
- stem cell transplant recipients;
- CAR-T therapy recipients; and
- other hematologic cancer patients undergoing treatment.
The province says it is expecting to receive its first shipment in late April and subsequent shipments in May and June.
Evusheld was approved by Health Canada on Apr. 14.