The possibility of a return of COVID-19 restrictions, such as masking could become a reality as Ontario continues to battle the 6th wave, which is predominantly driven by the BA.2 variant.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health at a media briefing last week said, that residents should be prepared for the possibility of the mask mandate coming back.

“While we will not be reinstating a broad mask mandate at this time, we should all be prepared that we may need to resume a requirement for mask-wearing in indoor public spaces if a new variant of concern emerges, a threat to our healthcare system, or potentially during the winter months when COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are likely to circulate again,” explains Dr. Moore.

As of April 19, Ontario reported 1,486 hospitalizations with 206 in Intensive Care Units, with 1,218 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations have seen a 9 per cent week-to-week increase in Ontario and are up 36 per cent from this time 14 days ago. Tuesday’s hospitalization rate was the highest seen since February 15, 2022.

Even with the growing hospitalizations and per cent positivity rates, Kenora MP, Eric Melillo strongly opposes re-implementing COVID-19 restrictions.

“I think we’ve progressed to the point in this pandemic where the broad mandates are no longer necessary, which is why provinces across the country and jurisdictions around the world have been removing them,” said Melillo.

Ontario removed capacity limits in indoor public settings, and proof of vaccination in most settings on March 1, 2022. On March 21, 2022, the provincial mask mandates were removed in most indoor public settings.

It is expected that as of April 27, 2022, masks will be removed in Ontario’s highest-risk settings. Last week, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said provincial officials were actively discussing a possible extension of Ontario’s COVID-19 mask mandate for public transit settings, shelters, jails, long-term care homes, and hospitals, which is currently in effect until April 27, 2022.

“COVID isn’t going anywhere, we need to learn to deal with it and live with it. Manage it responsibly from a health perspective, but also accounting for mental health and the social aspects of things. It’s been a tough couple of years for a lot of people,” added Melillo.

However, a recent report from Public Health Ontario says due to the BA.2 variant’s increased transmissibility, severe cases of COVID-19 are expected to increase. Dr. Moore says he expects a recent trend of rising hospitalization counts to continue into May.

Public Health Ontario’s report says the sixth wave of COVID-19, now underway, could lead to in-person learning disruptions for students and a return of indoor mandatory mask mandates. Dr. Moore says this could happen with the emergence of a new variant, or by the winter months.

Melillo concluded by saying to respect one’s personal choice to wear a mask or not.

“The most important thing it that we respect each other’s decision’s around that. We all want to get through this together, stay healthy and get back to normal, and I believe we can do that on the track we’re currently on, I believe we are doing that right now.”

In a recent study of over 500 people, a cloth mask helped lower the odds of testing positive for COVID-19 by 56 per cent, a surgical mask reduced your risk by 66 per cent, while an N95 mask lowered your odds by 83 per cent.