End of mask mandates: What it means for Healthcare workers.

Paulyn Mae Cabrera in full PPE gear

“The mask mandates are the most important defenses against the virus. It is essential in keeping our patients and loved ones safe. I believe that the government’s decision to drop the mandatory mask mandate is premature. Considering the fact that there are still a large number of cases in the hospitals.”

That’s what Paulyn Mae Cabrera, who has been a healthcare worker since 2006, being a full-time nurse as Providence Healthcare, as well as a part-time nurse at Michael Garron Hospital, said when she was asked about her thoughts regarding the end of Ontario’s mask mandates.

Aerial view of Michael Garron Hospital. Courtesy of Toronto East Health Network.

Another nurse, Ivy Orines, who has been a practicing nurse for 12 years, working at University Health Network (UHN) Toronto Rehab Institute Bickle Centre, had this to say.
“Many people have been affected by Covid-19. In fact, it targeted not only the most vulnerable populations such as the elderly with comorbidities, immunocompromised, and even the younger age groups. Throughout the pandemic, people have been accustomed to wearing masks due to the mandate. Now that Ontario has come to a decision to lift this policy, as a health care worker we would anticipate another surge of infections. I believe it’s still early for this to be implemented. We must continue to take precautions until we see a flatten curve / numbers of infections go down. As much as everyone is tired of wearing masks, it is going to continue to put others’ safety at risk.”

Ivy Orines with no mask or PPE

A daily summary of COVID cases in Toronto as of March 24th detail that a total number of 2,761 cases have been reported, with approximately 15 deaths, and 1,818 of those cases being resolved.

When asked about how this will affect her co-workers, Ivy Orines said “How is this going to affect us as a healthcare worker? The patient overload in emergencies and not enough beds to be occupied. Possibly more deaths and burnout to all staff. I still continue wearing my PPE proper protective equipment that includes the mask as the first line of defense and protection against the spread of virus.”

Toronto Rehab – Bickle Centre, courtesy of University Health Network.

“The pandemic is not over. There continues to be a high rate of infection. Lifting the mandatory mask mandate threatens the health and safety of the patients, nurses and other front-line workers. Our team will be facing the uncertainty of the situation. If there are future surges of the virus as a result of lifting the mask mandate, we will again have to deal with overwhelming workload. This not just affects us physically but mentally as well. But as healthcare workers, we will continue to be responsible in advocating for the health and safety of the public.” said Paulyn Cabrera, when asked the same question.

March 21, 2022 marked the end of mask mandates in Ontario. As public areas, businesses, and other places around Ontario, especially here in Toronto begin lifting the mandates, there is one group of people who have their own opinions on the matter. They are of course frontline health workers. Since they are the people who work up close to the virus, increasing their risk of infection, they have their own thoughts regarding the end of mask mandates.

While the length of the mask mandate’s end is uncertain, what both of these nurses say is that lifting the mandates might be too early. As well as this, they stress that healthcare workers have been under so much pressure, that should the virus surge again, that pressure will only mount. But despite this, they will continue to do their jobs like so many other frontline workers, as they do their best to help those affected by COVID.

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