While Toronto and Ontario recently dropped the majority of its mask mandates, Dr. Amit Arya believes residents should remain vigilant with the COVID-19 pandemic not quite over yet.
“We have to be proactive and maintain masks,” he said. “And I’d even argue, ideally, in essential places where people don’t have a choice to go or not, where they need to go should require masking. It’s really just about the bare minimum.”
Dr. Arya is a Toronto-based doctor, specialising in palliative care for Kensington Health and North York General hospital.
On social media, he has been active in his support for continued masking in healthcare facilities, including long-term care homes and hospitals.
Despite the dropped mask mandate provincially, hospitals individually declared that masks will remain mandatory.
Toronto’s positive cases are trending downwards this summer with more outdoor activities opening up according to Dr. Arya, but residents should remain cautious.
“Even if we are younger, healthier and fully vaccinated, we have some baseline risk of the most common COVID-19 complication right now,” he said. “It’s actually not hospitalization, it’s not the ICU – it’s long COVID.”
Long COVID is when long-term effects persist even when an individual tests negative. Some symptoms include dizziness, chest pain and difficulty breathing, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Regarding pandemic fatigue, Dr. Arya said there is a “particular trauma” with seeing someone with a mask right now, but it should not dissuade individuals from “following the science” and think that COVID’s effects have waned.
Chief medical officer of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, predicts the high likelihood of a seventh wave this fall – Dr. Tam reiterated this prediction this week.
However, Dr. Arya believes the lockdowns and renewed measures of the previous lockdown in January 2022 can be prevented.
“We should not need, if we do this properly [and] proactively, we should not need lockdowns, any capacity restrictions ever again,” he said. “But we need to follow the signs, we need to use the tools we have to keep things open – to protect small businesses, to protect schools and of course to protect our healthcare system.”
Dr. Arya said masking should not be viewed as restricting freedoms, but as one of the “most impactful tools” at this stage of the pandemic. He believes that masking should have been one of the last measures to be dropped.
For now, he is urging residents to continue masking whenever possible, get vaccinated and encourage others to see the benefits of vaccinations.
Along with his work for long-term care homes and hospitals, Dr. Arya is also an assistant professor at McGill University and a lecturer at the University of Toronto.
Listen to Dr. Amit Arya’s full interview: