Days after "strongly recommending" that Ontarians return to wearing masks inside, Ontario's chief medical officer of health attended a crowded party, where videos show he wasn't wearing a mask.
On Monday, Dr. Kieran Moore, the province's top doctor who the government has leaned on for his advice about managing the COVID-19 pandemic since mid-2021, held a press conference at Queen's Park to discuss the "extraordinary pressures" on the health-care system due to significant circulation of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19.
"We're asking more people to mask up," Moore told Ontarians on Monday.
The chief medical officer said the province is facing "a triple threat that requires our collective action and action to protect the most vulnerable in our communities."
“I’m very concerned about protecting our children right now, and it’s best that we protect them through masking in a home environment and in any social situation,” Moore added.
Just over three days later, Moore went to Toronto Life's party celebrating its 50 most influential Torontonians of 2022, which had a guest list of 250 people.
Videos taken at the event show Moore mingling in the crowd at a chic Yorkville retail store. In one, Moore is seen standing close to dozens of others, none of whom are masked, watching a musical artist perform while enjoying a drink.
On Monday, Ontario’s CMOH Dr. Kieran Moore “strongly recommended” Ontarians wear masks indoors.
Last night, 3 days later, he was partying maskless at Toronto Life’s celebration for its 50 most influential Torontonians of 2022, videos show. pic.twitter.com/YrgOuTGPbg
— Charlie Pinkerton (@CharliePinkerto) November 18, 2022
Moore was invited because Toronto Life ranked him the city's 12th most influential Torontonian of 2022 "for keeping COVID under control."
In its list, the publication wrote that "under Moore’s stewardship, Ontario achieved one of the highest immunization rates in the world... (He) also managed to pull off what once seemed like an impossible task: ending lockdowns, opening businesses and eliminating masking and isolation mandates while keeping everyone relatively safe."
As one of Toronto Life's 50 most influential Torontonians of 2022, Moore is among the likes of actor Simu Liu (No. 1), Premier Doug Ford (No. 3), Deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland (No. 4), musicians Drake (No. 5), The Weeknd (No. 15) and Shawn Mendes (No. 23), Mayor John Tory (No. 6), broadcaster Lisa LaFlamme (No. 8), writer Margaret Atwood (No. 18), political strategists Jenni Byrne (No. 21) and Nick Kouvalis (No. 34), Toronto Raptor Scottie Barnes (No. 25), lawyer Marie Henein (No. 48), and more.
The province has not brought back its mask mandate, and Moore said Monday he hopes that the province won't have to bring in any stronger public health measures.
The chief medical officer of health did say he was "discussing and reviewing" the possibility of masks being required again in schools.
Moore stressed that children are especially at risk from RSV and the flu and that "masking at a population level will help, but we really have to focus on where we can protect our children."
"What might be a cold to you can lead to a severe respiratory infection in a child four and under."
Some major children's hospitals in Ontario have been operating over capacity for the last few weeks, leading to cancellations of non-urgent surgeries and long wait times for kids needing care.
After this story was published, the Ministry of Health emailed journalists a statement about Moore.
"Like all Ontarians, Dr. Moore evaluates the risk of each situation including private events," the Health Ministry's statement said. "He follows many layers of protection including screening daily for symptoms of any respiratory infection, practicing good hand hygiene, staying up to date on immunizations, masking when necessary and distancing when possible.
"Dr. Moore continues to encourage everyone to use their best judgement on when it’s appropriate to wear a mask, particularly around the most vulnerable, including young children."
At a midday media availability in Timmins on Friday, Premier Doug Ford was asked by a reporter about Moore being maskless at the Toronto Life party.
Ford did not mention Moore by name in his response. The premier said "masking is a personal choice" in Ontario, and that Ontarians "know if they need a mask (and) know if they don't need a mask" two-and-a-half years into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ford and most of his Progressive Conservative caucus haven't worn masks at Queen's Park since Moore advised Ontarians to don them in indoor settings, which opposition MPPs heaped criticism on them for all week. A few of the premier's staff attended Toronto Life's party on Thursday and, like at least most of the attendees in videos shared online, also didn't wear masks.
MPP France Gélinas, the NDP's health critic, said in a statement that the controversy about Moore's party appearance without a mask provides "a good opportunity for our CMOH to give guidance to people."
"None of us can eat or drink with our mask on," Gélinas said in her emailed statement. "Holiday parties are around the corner, and people deserve to have clear public health advice so they can take every precaution to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. We can’t afford to get this wrong when we have parents with sick kids arriving at overcapacity children’s hospitals.”
The story was updated at 5:20 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, with comments that Premier Doug Ford and the Ministry of Health made after this story was published earlier in the day.