Masks mandatory for public indoor spaces in the GTA

Jul 7, 2020 | COVID-19, News

Vape shop employee Sal Torrezar (left) processes transaction for a customer wearing a face mask on July 7 at Mr. Vapour on St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto. (Harmony Multani)
Harmony Multani

The temporary bylaw making the wearing of a mask mandatory in all indoor public places to combat the spread of COVID-19 came into effect today. 

Toronto city council voted to adopt the bylaw during a council meeting last week.

It’s a measure TTC riders are familiar with as the commission implemented a mandatory mask initiative with some exceptions on July 2 and, for the most part, people are complying.

“We did an audit at Kennedy Station yesterday and found 84 per cent of customers wearing face coverings,” said Stuart Green, a TTC spokesperson in an email statement. “That’s a sign to us that people are not only willing to wear a face covering, but want to do the socially responsible thing for their fellow passengers and our employees.”

A Toronto press release following the vote last week “heeds advice from the Medical Officer of Health, who recommended city council use its authority to legislate for the protection of the health, safety and well-being of persons in Toronto.”

The city said the bylaw may help prevent a second wave of the coronavirus in Toronto.

“With the help of all residents, Toronto has made significant progress in the fight against COVID-19,” the city said in the statement. It said Toronto is now in Stage 2 of the province’s reopening framework and wearing masks allow businesses and community activities to resume with COVID-19 precautions in place.

Although there is growing controversy around wearing masks, with many people protesting them, experts at the World Health Organization have said masks do in fact make a difference. 

“Current evidence suggests that most transmission of COVID-19 is occurring from symptomatic people to others in close contact, when not wearing appropriate PPE,” said the World Health Organization in an online information document. 

Toronto council said it also considered sustainability and equitability when mandating the new bylaw.

“A growing body of scientific evidence suggests the use of masks and face coverings is an inexpensive, acceptable, and non-invasive measure to help control the spread of COVID-19,” the city stated in the press release.

The bylaw exempts those who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, children under the age of two, and “other reasonable accommodations,” the city said.

Although there is some public backlash against the masks, Sal Torrezar, an employee at Mr. Vapour on St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto, said his clientele has been pretty open minded. 

“I mean it’s still very new, but I had a customer come in today without a mask, and when I offered him one saying it was mandatory by law, he was happy to put one on without making a big deal about it,” Torrezar said. 

“It makes our jobs easier when customers are open minded because we are responsible for keeping this place safe for our clients,” he said. 

The TTC wants clients to feel confident they are doing their part in keeping everyone safe, he said.

“As the city begins to re-open for business and customers return to the TTC, physical distancing is going to get more difficult,” Green said. “Wearing a face covering is a good way to stop the spread of the virus when distancing is not possible.”