‘The pandemic isn’t over’: Transit users react to mask mandate lifting

Dan Delorme will be wearing his mask on public transit, for the foreseeable future, despite the fact that he no longer has to wear one. 

Saturday, the province lifted its remaining mask mandates for public transit and in health-care settings. 

“You could say I’m a little bit uneasy,” Delorme told CBC Saturday, while waiting for his bus on Rideau Street. “I still protect myself. I still wear my mask, and I try not to touch any surfaces.” 

Delorme is extra cautious because he suffers from asthma, he said, “If I get COVID, I’m not going to live through it because it’s a disease that affects the lungs. I’m not taking any chances whatsoever.” 

Ivy Chan is also not taking any chances. She continues to wear a face covering for her “own protection.”

“And for the protection of the people that I love and really care about,” she said. “The pandemic isn’t over. I just don’t feel comfortable with the unmasking.” 

Emma Deleon wears a mask while waiting for a taxi in the ByWard Market. She says the piece of cloth has prevented her from “getting sick” in the past. That’s why she will continue to use it. 

Emma Deleon wears a mask while waiting for a taxi on Rideau Street on June 11, 2022. (Rachelle Elsiufi /CBC )

OC Transpo announced earlier this week that while wearing a mask on public transportation is strongly encouraged, it  will no longer be required. 

Additional sanitation measures brought in for the pandemic will remain. Those include daily cleaning of all vehicles and stations, protective shields at the front of buses, and no-touch payment options. 

Transit users have been required to wear a mask since June 15, 2020 after the city’s transit commission approved the policy.

Ottawa Public Health still recommends wearing a mask, despite the province ending the mandate. 

Fewer masks could increase infections, doctor says

In enclosed spaces without proper ventilation, such as public transportation, airports and classrooms, Dr. Emilio Alarcon, an associate professor in biochemistry, microbiology and immunology at the University of Ottawa, says mask wearing could help prevent the spread of the disease.

OC Transpo still recommends wearing a mask on public transit, but says as of Saturday masks are no longer required on buses or the LRT. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

“So everything is about the ventilation and the air and how rapidly, the air needs to be replaced, particularly if you have these particles floating around.” 

He warns that without the remaining mask mandates, we could see a spike in the number of infections. He recommends getting the booster shot, when available. 

“If you get the booster now, you will have a safer summer.” 

Ottawa hospitals retain mask requirement

While the province has also dropped the requirement for masks in healthcare settings, Ottawa hospitals are doing what many hospitals in Ontario are and keeping the masking requirements.

The provincial mask mandate for long-term care and retirement homes remains. 

“We shouldn’t forget that this is still a pandemic,” said Alarcon. “This pandemic is not gone. [We] have a long way ahead. If we don’t work together this [pandemic will last] even longer.” 

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