ONTARIO – Beginning on March 21, masks are no longer mandated in Ontario; they will no longer be required in public places, including schools.

A press release from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), stated: “We are in a place where masking and other restrictions can be removed in most circumstances due to a significant decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and outbreaks as well as high levels of vaccination among people older than 12 years old and increasing vaccine uptake in students aged 5 to 11 years old,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, medical officer of health at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU). “For this, I am grateful to the community.”

Because we are not all out of the woods yet as far as the pandemic is concerned, there are still some mask mandates that are ongoing. People will still be required to wear masks in the following circumstances and settings: When taking public transit, healthcare settings, long-term care homes, and congregate care settings.

The health unit stressed that the province was still in the grips of a pandemic and that masks remain effective at curbing the number of COVID-19 infections in the community.

Dr. Roumeliotis recommends the continued use of masks in situations where the risk of transmission is higher, such as crowded indoor and poorly ventilated places, or when in close contact with unvaccinated or ill people. The decision to wear a mask should be based on an individual’s risk tolerance based on any underlying health conditions or their age, as well as their comfort levels.

“For the time being, I will personally continue wearing a mask when I find myself in crowded indoor spaces or poorly ventilated places,” said Dr. Roumeliotis.

“As we transition into this new stage of the pandemic, I want to remind everyone to be kind and respectful of each other,” states Dr. Roumeliotis. “We truly are all in this together, and the transition to living alongside COVID-19 will be much smoother if everyone respects each other’s choices.”

The lifting of public health and workplace safety measures will also apply to schools. Students as well as education and school transportation staff will no longer be required to wear masks as of when they return to school on March 21.

However, students and school staff will still be required to wear masks if they are exposed to Covid-19 at home or in the community, or when taking public transportation to and from school (excluding school buses), and when returning from international travel.

“I want to reassure the public that the EOHU will continue working with school partners in the weeks and months ahead to ensure everyone’s safety throughout the school year.”

The press release went on to state: “While no longer mandatory in schools, students, parents, and staff may continue to wear masks based on their own personal risk assessment/situation, and they should not be bullied or intimated in any way for choosing to do so.”

The health unit feels there are still steps that can be taken to help slow down the existing pandemic. They recommend people get vaccinated and boosted if they are eligible, watch out for symptoms, and stay home when sick. They suggest using Rapid Antigen Tests when necessary and wash hands regularly, cough and sneeze into your arm and wear a mask when required or based on your own situation and risk.

For more information about the provincial government’s lifting of the remaining public health and workplace safety measures, visit EOHU.ca.