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LILLEY: Data backs up removal of mask mandates — just look

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A week from now we all get to choose when to wear a mask rather than being told.

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Masking requirements will lift in most settings in Ontario on March 21, although they will still be required in hospitals, and long-term care and public transit settings until the end of April.

Opponents of lifting mandatory masking — anyone can still choose to wear a mask — continue to claim this is a political decision rather than a medical one. In their view, Premier Doug Ford is removing masking requirements due to the upcoming provincial election in June.

That isn’t backed up by the medical facts or the fact that Ontario is one of the last places to remove the mandate.

While I’ve heard a lot of claims that there is no data to support dropping masks, I’m not sure what the people making this claim want to see. The data clearly supports the decision taken by  Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, that the time has come to scrap the province’s mask mandate.

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Of course, when masking became commonplace in cities across the province in the spring and summer of 2020 there were no vaccines available.

We now have 91% of the population over the age of 12 fully vaccinated, 86% of those over the age of five fully vaccinated, and for those most at risk, the rate is even higher. Throughout COVID, those most at risk were people over the age of 60 where vaccination rates are at 96% and above.

It’s been two years since COVID was declared a global pandemic; we have developed vaccines and therapeutics since then.

Our medical professionals have learned a great deal, but there are those, including some doctors, who want us to continue acting as if we are still in March 2020 without all the advances we have made since then.

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While the majority of provinces, along with every American state and many European countries, have already moved to drop mask mandates, Ontario is moving slower and more cautiously than most jurisdictions.

Ontario has just five patients per 100,000 in hospital with COVID. That’s lower than all provinces on a per capita basis other than Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. It is less than half the national rate of 11.18 per 100,000.

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Of the 722 people in hospital with COVID, 53% of them were admitted for other reasons and tested positive in hospital. Meaning, COVID may be widespread, but more than half of the hospital cases were admitted for something else and didn’t know they had COVID until they tested positive in a hospital.

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While much has been made of the Science Table not being directly consulted by Ford before the mask decision was made, they were consulted by Moore.

Not that we should put too much faith in the Science Table, given their track record of being horribly wrong.

Their most recent modelling said that we could see nearly 6,000 people in hospitals at this point, and the best-case scenario was more than 2,000 people in hospital. We’re at less than half of that level.

They predicted between 300 and 800 ICU admissions at this point in time if Ontario lifted restrictions; we are at 179 ICU patients.

The people who are angry at mask mandates being dropped were opposed to reopening schools, removing vaccine passports, and allowing restaurants to go to full capacity. They’ve opposed the lifting of any and all restrictions.

They don’t want life to return to normal, ever.

The fact is that our situation with COVID has improved, the facts and the data speak for themselves.

Returning to normal is the right thing to do, rather than making never-ending restrictions our new normal.

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