Is it time to take off the mask?

Employees could be divided when it comes time to make a choice

Is it time to take off the mask?

It’s official, the masks are coming off.

As of March 21, the Ontario government has announced they will no longer be required in places such as schools, gyms, stores and restaurants.

This follows the lead of other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world that are throwing off the veil, so to speak, determined to return to normal.

I’m still not sure how I’ll respond. I’ve been more cautious than some with this pandemic, less cautious than others. I’m motivated largely by keeping my elder parents safe, while somewhat worrying about my own health.

So I’ve happily, gratefully taken the three vaccine doses, and I’ve dutifully worn my mask, tried to follow social distancing and in the early days, only ventured out when necessary.

Previously, Canadian HR Reporter spoke with Jonathan Lam, associate at Gowling in Vancouver, about the legal fine points of enacting a mask-wearing policy for both employees and outside clients.

Two years later, with the rates of infection slowly dropping, am I ready to face the world without a face covering? I’m not sure.

Maybe that’s because I’ve heard of more people getting infected in the last couple of weeks, through work and family and friends, than I have since before Christmas. Is another wave coming or is this just a blip?

Maybe it’s because I’m not entirely convinced the virus has truly lost its menace. While hospitalizations and death rates are down, there are also newer studies suggesting the long-term effects of COVID are not to be taken lightly. So I’m in no hurry to succumb to the sickness if I don’t have to.

Maybe it’s because of all the mixed messaging online that has plagued this pandemic, so to speak. There are the true experts, the so-called experts, the definitely not experts – and everyone in between.

And it’s not entirely clear who is an expert, given the continued uncertainties about COVID-19. Understandably, with such a new phenomenon, the science changes and evolves. “Expert” advice in the early days may no longer be valid, while newer advice may be given too hastily.

But whatever I do decide – whether it’s always wearing a mask inside or wearing a mask selectively depending on the perceived risks – my main concern is that people leave their judgments aside.

And I doubt this will happen. Opinions and criticisms have run rampant these past two years, on both sides, and that will continue as people are shamed for wearing or not wearing a mask.

We’re going to see it in the workplace. As public health authorities loosen the restrictions, and employers follow suit, some workers will continue to put up the shield, while others happily discard them. And that could lead to some conflicts in the workplace.

But let’s hope people’s choices are accepted, because everyone has their own risks, their own concerns, their own opinions, and who are we to judge?

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