masks on subway
Ontario's top public health official says that he anticipates that the mask mandate will be lifted "simultaneously" across most sectors when it is safe to do so, rather than on a piecemeal basis.

Quebec has announced a plan to lift the mask mandate in elementary and secondary school classrooms by March 14 en route to eventually scrapping it for other indoor public settings as well.

But during a briefing on Thursday Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore suggested that the province is unlikely to go down that road and will instead look to lift the mask mandate entirely, with exceptions likely to be made to certain high-risk settings like public transit and hospitals.

His comments come on the heels of Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown calling on the province to "strongly" consider lifting the mask mandate in schools as part of helping "children get back to normal."

New Brunswick also announced on Thursday afternoon that it would lift its mask mandate for indoor public settings as of March 14.

"The consultations have started and we will be working with school boards, with parents and with the ministry to make a decision together. But we do anticipate if we remove it in the public sector we would do it simultaneously for the schools," Moore said on Thursday. "If you're going to lift them in recreational facilities and other indoor facilities, it just makes sense to also do it simultaneously for the educational sector."

Currently all students in Grade 1 to Grade 12 in Ontario are required to wear masks at school as part of a series of measures intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

While the provincial policy does not extend to students in Kindergarten, most boards in the GTA have independently decided to mandate masks for students in those grades as well.

So far Toronto's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa has largely ducked questions about whether she would support lifting the requirement locally, only saying that she wants to see a "gradual and phased approach."

Moore, however, said on Thursday that a review of the mask mandate is already underway and that an announcement on its fate could be made "in the coming weeks."

The chief medical officer of health also suggested that other policies around mandatory isolation procedures and vaccine requirements for some workplaces could also be tweaked or eliminated.

"It is important to note that this virus is still with us and will remain with us for some time. COVID-19 remains a global challenge. But we know what works," he said. "We have tools that we did not have just two years ago, including highly effective vaccines that have changed the course of the pandemic."