As Ontario enters the seventh wave of COVID-19, local health officials say that doesn’t necessarily mean masking mandates will return.

Speaking to CTV News on Wednesday, Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum, associate medical officer of health with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH), said given the phase of the pandemic we are in compared to last year, he “wouldn’t take it as a given we will see a return of those mandates.”

“I suppose the possibility is always there, it’s something that I know is on the radar for provincial colleagues and as well as for us locally,” said Tenenbaum. “The question is always how big is the threat, and how to we develop a response that proportional, recognizing all the other tools in our tool belt. I know that if there is a significant risk of health system impact or significant risk of really out of control transmission, masking mandates remain very much a possibility.”

Health officials say hospitalizations and wastewater data are slowly creeping upwards which can be the signal of a new wave.

Public health says this wave is largely driven by the ba.5 subvariant of omicron, which is considered the dominant strain in Ontario.

Currently, in Waterloo region there are 275 active cases with 15 people in hospital. There are also 10 COVID-19 outbreaks according to the public health dashboard.

In an email to CTV News, Region of Waterloo Public Health spokesperson Sharon Ord said: “Key indicators such as the wastewater signal and test positivity rate are showing an increase in COVID-19 activity in the region and across the province. Although the wastewater signal (up to June 25, 2022) is dominated by Omicron sub-variant BA.2.12.1, the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are increasing in Waterloo Region.”

Public Health said they will continue to monitor outbreaks and case trends over time.

“Our community’s high levels of immunity from vaccination and infection, as well as additional layers of protection that members of the community can add on during periods of higher risk e.g. masking in indoor/crowded environments, ensuring good ventilation, etc., have given all of us the tools to continue to reduce the impact of the virus,” said Ord.