Toronto, Peel make face masks mandatory in public places
Toronto council approved a temporary bylaw to make wearing masks inside public places on Tuesday to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Peel’s three municipalities are also expected to adopt a similar temporary bylaw.
The Toronto bylaw, which comes into effect July 7, makes it the responsibility of shop owners or businesses to ensure people and employees wear cloth masks. Children under two or persons with medical conditions are exempt.
In a press conference held Tuesday morning, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health and the mayors of Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon announced plans to make wearing non-medical masks a requirement for residents inside public spaces.
The temporary bylaw would be voted on Tuesday and if passed would become a mandated requirement as early as next Tuesday.
Peel’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lawrence Loh, said in the absence of further provincial direction in wearing masks in public places, a time-limited bylaw requiring the use of non-medical masks in public places should be enacted for public safety.
“This means using masks as the added line to stop the spread it is time to move from a strong recommendation to a requirement in places where physical distancing cannot be maintained,” Loh said.
“Wearing a mask can serve as a visual reminder that these are not ordinary times,” said Nando Iannicca, Peel’s regional chair.
“We have a handle on COVID-19 transmission right now. But the virus is not gone. We must continue to stop its spread and masks will help us do just that,” he said.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said people need to work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
“Wearing a non-medical mask in public spaces will do just that by keeping others safe,” he said.
“Masks are not a replacement for physical distancing and we must to everything we can to avoid flare-up of this virus in our community,” Brown said.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said she understands people may be getting fatigued fighting COVID-19, but the virus is still plaguing communities.
“We may be done with the pandemic, but it is not done with us,” she said. “We need to remain vigilant and take precautionary measures to reduce the severity of a second wave in the fall.
“Masks themselves are not the answer but they are a part of the equation,” Crombie said.
She said officials would rather not enforce a bylaw but will if necessary.
“We hope that people would do the right thing for their family, their friends, their neighbours,” Crombie said.
Acting Caledon Mayor Johanna Downey said wearing a mask in public spaces has been proven to be effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19, and protects the health of our residents and communities.
“Keep apart, stay home, wash your hands, wear a mask and get tested,” she said.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, echoed Loh’s recommendation in a separate press conference at Toronto City Hall.
“COVID-19 is unlike any infectious disease we’ve ever faced in our lifetime,” she said. “The reality is that the virus continues to circulate and we still need to be careful.
“I wear my cloth mask to protect you and you wear one to protect me,” De Villa said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said wearing a mask is about respecting and protecting each other.
“Fabric masks or face coverings keep you from unknowingly spreading this COVID-19 virus and keeps the people around you from spreading it to you,” he said.
“It may be uncomfortable, it may look unusual, it may take you out of your comfort zone but our doctor says it works,” Tory said.
Toronto City council is adopted the temporary mask bylaw late Tuesday.
Face coverings are already a requirement on the TTC starting Thursday. To encourage people to wear masks the TTC will distribute them to riders who don’t have one.
Municipalities across Ontario share the sentiment of making wearing masks mandatory.
But Ontario Premier Doug Ford has previously said ensuring people wear masks across the province would be very difficult.
In a news conference at Queen’s Park on Tuesday afternoon, Ford said a mandatory mask policy wasn’t necessary and comparing regions across Ontario is like comparing apples and oranges.
“Each region has the authority to implement but Toronto and Peel are different than Kenora Rainy River,” he said.
“If you’re in large groups wearing masks is a golden rule but each public health area will have the authority to either implement Sec. 22 of Health Act or go to council like Toronto,” Ford said.
Ford also announced provincial parks will be allowed free day-use starting tomorrow commemorating Canada Day and fishing will be allowed from July 4 until July 19.