Province to end masking mandate

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    Highlands businesses and indoor public spaces won’t be obligated to enforce mask-wearing as of March 21. 

    All remaining COVID-19 health measures will be dropped by the end of April, announced Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Keiran Moore, at a Mar. 9 press conference.

    The Highlands’ top doctor Natalie Bocking said Mar. 8 that masks are still key in preventing the spread of the virus. 

    “We know that masks are an effective and easy way to slow transmission of COVID-19,” said Dr. Bocking, Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge’s chief medical officer of health at a media information session Mar. 9. 

    “What is key is we continue to be aware COVID-19 is still in the community, there are still people who will get COVID-19,” she said. 

    Dr. Moore said with increasing immunity and high vaccination rates mean Ontario “has the tools to deal with the impact of this virus” without mask enforcement. 

    He said the decision to remove the mandate “does not mean the risk is gone” and that Ontarians should expect to see a case count increase as people “increasingly interact with one another.” 

    Masking rules will still be in effect for congregate living settings, public transit, long-term care homes, shelters and jails. 

    Bocking said “time will tell” whether the decision to remove masking rules comes too soon. 

    “It does place the onus on individuals to assess risk for themselves, and assess the impact on other people,” she said. 

    Bocking added that businesses and other settings have the ability to maintain masking rules, acknowledging the possibility the decision might prove contentious. 

    “The pandemic has been a long pandemic and certainly has the potential to continue on: it’s very unfortunate in some settings [masks have] become divisive,” she said.

    Currently, Haliburton has two lab-confirmed unresolved cases of COVID-19, with 413 lab-confirmed cases to date.

    Isolation rules change 

    If you’re over 18 with a booster dose or considered fully isolated, you won’t need to isolate if someone in your household tests positive for COVID-19. The isolation period for vaccinated people remains five days. For unvaccinated people who have COVID-19, as well as unvaccinated close contacts, the isolation period remains 10 days. 

    As of Mar. 11, the Province also will change how it reports COVID-19 deaths. It will specify whether COVID-19 caused a death, contributed to a death or if the cause of death is unknown.