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Ontario will not require masks in schools this fall despite uptick in COVID cases

The Ontario Ministry of Education will not mandate mask-wearing when students return to class this fall, Education Minister Stephen Lecce has confirmed.

“As is the case with every jurisdiction in Canada, masks will not be required in Ontario schools,” he said in an emailed statement to CP24. “We have taken significant action to improve ventilation in every single school, deploying 100,000 HEPA filter units and improving mechanical ventilation using the highest MERV-13 quality filters.”

It’s the second year since the start of the pandemic that the province will not mandate mask-wearing in schools, school board offices or on student transportation.

Lecce’s statement comes as Ontario enters a possible new wave of the coronavirus pandemic, due in large part to BA.2.86, a highly mutated new variant of the virus. As well, recent wastewater monitoring shows an uptick in the virus compared to an all-time low in Ontario in June of this year.

Ontario first lifted its mask mandate in public spaces in March of 2022, when it was determined Ontario had come to a place where it could “manage” the virus.

While the chance of a possible new wave might be worrying, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, clinician investigator for the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, says this fall’s COVID ebb is unlikely to be as significant as those in years past.

“We’ve been in Omicron since the winter of 2022,” he said in an interview. “But the waves have not been remotely as devastating as they were earlier on in the pandemic, like in 2020 and in 2021. This fall, barring the evolution of a really nasty variant, life will probably look much like it’s looked over the past year and a half.”

“The vast majority of the population has either received a vaccine, or been infected and recovered from the infection,” Bogoch continued. “That means the virus doesn’t wallop us as it did earlier in the pandemic. It still impacts us on an individual level, and a population level, but not nearly to the same degree.”

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