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Face mask rules changes from mandate to choice in most settings March 21

People will soon be on their own to choose if they will continue wearing masks in public to help reduce their risk of COVID-19.

Prince Edward County, at last night’s council meeting, decided it would also end its mask in public places mandate when the province lifts its requirements.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore announced the change from mandate to choice Wednesday morning as the province will drop most COVID-19 mask mandates, including at schools, restaurants and stores, on March 21.

Masks will still be required in health-care settings, congregate care settings and in the long-term care system and on public transit.

“While this does not signal that COVID-19 has disappeared or that the pandemic is over, it does mean that we have come to a place where we know what we need to do to manage this virus and to keep each other safe,” said Moore.

Access limits put on COVID-19 testing in December to high-risk settings only means the province no longer documents most cases and the true scale of spread remains uncertain.

However, Moore states a stabilization of hospitalizations is being seen across the province and the fatality rate has subsided from its peak in late January. He also noted wastewater surveillance data suggests an uptick in virus spread and some increases in numbers in the coming weeks can be expected.

Late last week, Stacey Daub, President and CEO of Quinte Health Care, told the community in a letter that the QHC’s four hospitals are still waging a battle with COVID and “we expect a slow and bumpy path to returning our hospitals to a better place.

“Despite coming down from the peak of the fifth wave of COVID in mid-January, QHC is again facing another rise in COVID patients (35 per cent increase in two weeks).”

She noted fluctuating staffing shortages across all services and programs puts the hospitals in “an extreme surge situation as our teams care for a record high number of patients”.

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health’s report today noted fewer new and active cases. Hospitalizations are down to nine people, from 17 on Monday. Three people are in intensive care.

Meanwhile, walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics will continue Thursdays throughout March at the Prince Edward Community Centre in Picton from noon to 6 p.m. People aged five and over who are eligible for their first, second or third dose of the vaccine are welcome without an appointment.

The province has already lifted proof of vaccination certificates at certain businesses as well as opening capacity limits for businesses, social gatherings and events.

Though face mask mandates may continue in other municipalities, CAO Marcia Wallace explained the County would have more difficulty with enforcement, which also requires paying people to do so.

“If you remember, our mask policy applies to farm markets and stands as well as public buildings owned by the municipality,” she noted. “Right now we are defending the provincial rules, and are still getting a lot of push back.”

Following much discussion with staff, she noted it was decided it would be best to end the mask mandate at the same time as the province.

Councillors have also asked staff to explore the need for the municipality’s internal vaccination policy and provide a report for the April 10 council meeting.

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Barb says:

    Hi Dee. No, it is not prohibited. It is now a choice. Post it for your business that you still wish people to wear masks for a little while longer. I’m still choosing to wear a mask for a while myself, just to be safe. Wishing you the best. I’m sure patience is going to be needed.

  2. Dee says:

    Does this mean that individual businesses who wish to continute the mask mandate within their property are prohibited from doing so?

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