Part-time school bus driver Al Bonnar said he will still wear a mask in enclosed spaces, even with the mandate has been lifted.
And while the province is no longer requiring masks to be worn in most indoors as of Monday, he said most of the kids on his route are still wearing masks.
“We’re just coming back from March break,” he said, “so I will wear my mask when I’m indoors or when I’m with a group of people — for a while anyway.”
Although most public health measures have now ended, many local residents are expressing a willingness to continue abiding by them if requested, as a courtesy to others. We asked our readers: With public health measures lifting, what is appropriate COVID-19 etiquette for gatherings?
Here are the results:
- The pandemic is not over, it’s OK if people who need to take precautions ask guests to wear masks, test, and/or require vaccination for gatherings —69 per cent, 466 votes
- We need to try to live as normally as possible. While people need to do what’s right for them, they shouldn’t expect others to be restricted — 26 per cent, 179 votes
- The pandemic is over, finally. I think it’s rude to ask friends and family to wear masks and/or take a COVID test before visits — 5 per cent, 33 votes
The poll, which ran from March 17 to March 22, received 678 local votes, with a +/- 3.75 per cent margin of error.
The most popular choice highlighted a willingness to continue taking health precautions when asked, garnering 69 per cent of the vote. Although masks are no longer required, York Region Public Health has recommended their continued usage.
Others expressed more desire for normalcy and indicated they should not expect others to wear masks, with 26 per cent of the vote. Finally, five per cent of voters said they felt the pandemic was over, and it would be rude to ask others to take precautions.
Harris Ali, a sociology professor at York University, said differing levels of caution for masking or other measures can impact our social interactions.
“You’re afraid or angry that other people are not abiding by the risk threshold you subscribe to. You think, 'other people are endangering me,'” he said, adding vaccination has similarly been a point of division among some. “This is sort of a manifestation of the polarization.”
Local resident Michelle Crossdale said she sees masking now as a personal decision.
“I don’t have any qualms about anyone making their own personal choice,” she said. “But a personal business saying to me to wear a mask, I might choose not to go to that business."
Belinda Gairy said it felt good no longer having to wear a mask.
“You’re not confined,” she said. “It’s just freedom. It’s normalcy.”
But others are less willing to change behaviour yet. Lloy Bloom said she is not acting any differently with the mask mandate lifted.
“Just for safety, I don’t think we’re ready yet to go that way,” she said.
Shelley Courneya similarly said she is OK if stores or others ask her to wear a mask.
“That’s fine because I don’t want to get COVID-19. I don’t want to pass COVID along to my 95-year-old mother-in-law.”
Ali said empathy is important in the weeks ahead to handle the tension between those willing to take more precautions and those less so.
“We have to make a great deal of effort to try and understand the perspective of others and be respectful,” Ali said.
“Most people are responsible,” Bonnar said. “We’ll get through this.”