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Two people walk along a path in front of University College on the campus of Western University in London, Ont., on Jan. 6.GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images

Some Canadian postsecondary institutions are warning students not to toss their masks just yet, even as provincial governments drop the long-standing public health measure.

The schools are opting for a more cautious approach to COVID-19, citing concerns about potential outbreaks, while provinces – including British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario – have pointed to promising public health indicators such as test positivity rates and hospitalizations as reasons for lifting mask mandates.

The University of British Columbia is telling students to keep their masks on until the end of the semester on April 30 in order to prevent the spread of the virus, though the provincial mandate ended Friday.

The University of Alberta, meanwhile, has told students they must wear a mask until March 16, while that province lifted the rule on March 1. Going forward, masking will be “recommended, not required” at the university.

“We strongly recommend that you continue to wear masks in high-traffic or high-capacity spaces, and in other areas where you are in close proximity to others,” the school said in a statement Friday. “We also ask that U of A students, faculty, staff and visitors respect the choices of others in our community regarding masking as we transition into this next phase together.”

In Ontario, where the mask mandate will lift March 21, Western University, the University of Waterloo and Mohawk College have all said they plan to require that students wear masks for the rest of the winter term.

“There are many places across campus where physical distancing is simply not possible – classrooms and labs, residences, libraries, sport and recreation facilities and some work areas – so this is the best option to ensure the health and safety of our campus,” a statement from Western reads.

The school has been in touch with local public health officials, the statement said, and they confirmed that COVID-19 is still spreading in the community.

“While we know that many of us are looking forward to moving past certain protocols, we must continue to prioritize the safety of our campus in the context of our unique environment,” the statement reads.

Those schools are also keeping their vaccine mandates in place, though the province has ended its vaccine certificate system, which applied to certain public settings.

“To ensure that we can continue the rest of this semester in person, Western’s masking mandate and vaccination policy will remain in effect until at least the end of this term,” the statement says.

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