SMDHU urges continuation of prevention measures as province announces end of mask use

Health unit continues to stress the importance of vaccination

News release – from Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

As the province announced yesterday that mandatory mask requirements will lift in most settings on March 21, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) urges residents to continue practicing basic public health preventive measures to protect and reduce transmission of COVID-19. 

“Although the province has decided to lift mask requirements in most public settings, including schools, stores and restaurants, by March 21, it does not mean that the COVID-19 pandemic is over or that the risk of infection has been eliminated. COVID-19 continues to spread in our community and caution remains essential,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU’s medical officer of health.

“Learning to live with COVID-19 requires that everyone take responsibility for assessing their personal level of risk and taking precautions when out in public. With the continued high rate of community transmission in Simcoe Muskoka, I strongly advise that everyone continue to wear a mask in indoor public places beyond March 21 to protect against viral spread and severe illness,” added Dr. Gardner.

SMDHU continues to stress the importance of vaccination and personal protective health behaviours, such as staying home when ill, practicing good hand hygiene and maintaining physical distance and mask use, as these simple yet crucial measures help stop the spread of disease.

Vaccination remains an essential tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The health unit strongly encourages those who are eligible to get vaccinated as soon as they can, including a booster dose for eligible individuals aged 12 years and older which helps to reduce transmission, the risk for severe illness and the chance of being hospitalized if infected. This is particularly important for individuals over the age of 50 as well as those immunosuppressed or with underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk.

Youth aged 12 to 17 are eligible for a booster shot at least six months (168 days) after they received their second dose, while adults 18 years and older can receive a booster three months (84 days) after their second dose. It is also important that children aged five to 11 years receive two doses of the paediatric COVID-19 vaccine and parents are encouraged to get children vaccinated as soon as they are able.

The lifting of mask requirements on March 21 is part of Ontario’s three-phase pandemic reopening plan. On March 1, the province removed capacity limits in all remaining indoor public settings and lifted proof of vaccination requirements. However, individual businesses and organizations may choose to continue to require proof of vaccination. Guidance and information for local businesses and organizations about these changes is updated regularly on the health unit’s website.