Masks are no longer mandatory in many indoor settings in Ottawa and across Ontario.
The Ontario government has lifted the mandatory mask requirements for many places, including gyms, malls, restaurants, bars, grocery stores and within public elementary and secondary schools.
“I’m a little bit excited to not wear masks anymore,” said Liam Heikkila, a Grade 1 student.
“It’s good to have some flexibility and option to take the mask off,” said Steve Heikkila, Liam’s parent. “I think it’s good for kids to be able to see their classmates faces.”
As the mandate lifts, wearing a face covering will remain a personal choice.
“It will be nice to live life without having to do the mask, but I understand that it will be a choice. Especially for those who are immunocompromised. It’s something we should respect,” Ottawa resident Mark Smith said.
But many parents are worried about the risk factor in lifting the mandate.
“As a parent I would prefer that some keep the mask on because for some kids they’re not that self disciplined, so they might not be able to keep the distance,” said Jennifer Zhou, whose child is in elementary school.
The mask mandate will stay in effect within health care buildings, retirement homes, shelters, jails and on public transit.
For those working in industries where it will be lifted, a sense of normalcy is around the corner.
“With the mask we have to repeat ourselves multiple times and people don’t necessarily understand,” said Charlyne Martineau of Headquarters in Ottawa.
Ottawa COVID-19 monitoring show new outbreaks and hospitalizations are currently stable.
Experts say lifting the mandate brings a possibility of a bump in cases.
“I think it’s a bit early. I think they could have waited for at least the winter season to end,” said Zahid Butt, an epidemiologist.
Ontario will lift almost all COVID-19 restrictions by April 27.
Ottawa Public Health wasn’t available for an interview on Sunday, but a statement says they understand many people feel stressed or anxious about the changes and they encourage people to be respectful of the decisions that individuals and families make.
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