PICK A SIDE: When should masks no longer be mandatory in Ontario?

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Published July 23, 2021 at 4:44 pm

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Ontario is FINALLY out of lockdown and into Step 3 of the Province’s reopening framework. Most businesses are open, at least in some capacity, and things are starting to return to normal.

As of Friday (July 23), 70 per cent of Ontarians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including 81 per cent of adults, and 65 per cent of adults have been fully immunized.

For weeks, the number of vaccines administered has been in the six-figure range across Ontario, which is a large reason the province has become a leading jurisdiction in the world in terms of vaccination rates.

However, despite the fact things are starting to return to normal, there’s still a way to go yet.

Many have suggested the Province has been too slow to allow certain amenities to reopen and remove certain restrictions—they’re urging for a more rapid response.

Having already had to impose three Ontario-wide lockdowns, the Province has been extra cautious in order to ensure a fourth is not necessary.

Data from Public Health Ontario suggests, in order to reach herd immunity, the province will need to see between 56 and 89 per cent of the population fully immunized against the virus.

With the rate at which Ontarians are getting vaccinated, this is achievable potentially by the end of the summer, and definitely by the end of the year.

However, when that number is reached, what will happen then?

Many are adamant things should go back to normal—no more restrictions, and, more importantly, no more masks.

Masks have been a polarizing issue since they were first implemented towards the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

Some people first started wearing masks in public despite instructions not to from public officials. Many have cited this as a reason masks are unsafe. However, the reason behind it was to ensure there wasn’t a shortage of masks for those who needed them to perform their job—such as doctors and nurses (remember when everyone started hoarding toilet paper).

After many manufacturers started making masks, and they were more widely available, most jurisdictions implemented a mandate requiring residents wear them while inside common spaces.

But, as vaccine rates continue to increase, many are starting to ask when they can take their masks off.

Guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada has suggested, small group of vaccinated individuals can remove their masks with virtually no risk of transmitting or contracting the virus.

However, in larger groups, without some form of proof of vaccination, it’s virtually impossible to determine who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t meaning masks must stay on.

So, when Ontario does reach the threshold for herd immunity, 89 per cent is the conservative number according to Public Health Ontario, should residents be permitted to remove their masks?

Those in favour find masks restricting. They may also find them a challenge when it comes to social interactions (when you can only see a person’s eyes, it can be difficult to read their body language).

Additionally, masks present a challenge for the absentminded—those who are prone to forgetting things may leave their house to go shopping, and forget their mask, prohibiting them from entering the store they just spent time traveling to.

However, those in favour of masks have suggested the virus could eventually become endemic (such as the common cold), and masks can help prevent it from spreading further and causing another global health crisis.

Further, those who are in favour of masks have suggested it also helps in preventing the spread of other germs in congregate settings and is an overall better hygienic practice.

Some believe masks should continue to be a requirement up to a year after the pandemic ends, in order to ensure the virus is completely wiped out.

So, readers, what do you think?

Should mask mandates be eliminated once Ontario reaches 89 per cent in vaccination rates, or should they continue past that?

When should masks no longer be mandatory
Now!
When we hit 89 per cent fully immunized!
In a year to be extra safe!
Never!
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