Cloth masks likely to become mandatory on Monday — details to come

Joanne Laucius Ottawa Citizen Publishing date:Jul 04, 2020  •  

OTTAWA -- June 14, 2020 -- Mayor Jim Watson along with chair of the transit commission, Councillor Allan Hubley, were at Tunney's Pasture Station to tour the newly-installed hand sanitizer dispensers and to promote the use of cloth masks on OC Transpo Sunday, June 14, 2020. Starting Monday, June 15, customers will be required to wear cloth masks or equivalent face coverings in transit stations and on buses, trains, Para Transpo minibuses and contracted taxis. ASHLEY FRASER, Postmedia
Mayor Jim Watson wearing a mask. ASHLEY FRASER / Postmedia

The requirement to wear a cloth mask inside public places in Ottawa could come into effect as early as Monday.

The parameters of the requirement to wear a mask will be issued at a joint press conference by Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, and her counterparts from the four surrounding public health units in the Champlain region on Monday.

Cloth masks likely to become mandatory on Monday — details to come

The requirement will fall under the province’s emergency declaration, and it will come into effect almost immediately, said Coun. Keith Egli, chair of the Ottawa Board of Health.

The regional approach will bring consistency to the effort, he said.

As an interim measure until such by-law is in effect in Ottawa, the four health units in the Champlain region are looking at a regional approach to mandate masks in their respective jurisdictions, details to be announced Monday during a media availability. https://t.co/BcwiANoODS— Keith Egli (@KeithEgli) July 3, 2020

Meanwhile, making masks mandatory inside public spaces will add an extra layer of protection as Ottawa moves from Stage 2 to Stage 3 of reopening the economy, said Egli.

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The requirement issued on Monday will be the first step. On July 15, Egli, seconded by Mayor Jim Watson, will bring forward a motion to create a bylaw that will include details such as enforcement measures.

It’s a two-step process, but there will be no gap in expectations, said Egli.

Ontario municipalities that have made masks mandatory in indoor public places have used different enforcement approaches.

Kingston’s medical officer of health ordered face coverings June 27 under Section 22 of the Ontario Health Protection an Promotion Act. Toronto passed a bylaw on Monday, which comes into effect on July 7.

In a joint statement, Egli and Watson said it’s not always possible to know whether or not maintaining a two-metre physical distance can occur in indoor public spaces.

“It is often dependent upon the nature of the space and the number and actions of others,” they said.

Mandating cloth masks is not without controversy. Some have expressed concerns that people who can’t wear a mask for medical reasons will face discrimination, for example.

Others have argued that it’s unnecessary with so few active cases. As of Thursday at 2 p.m., there were 43 confirmed active cases in the Ottawa.

Egli argues that masks will help Ottawa to hold on to the progress made so far. “It will give us another tool in the tool box,” he said.

Egli said it’s important to note that there are many people who won’t be able to wear a mask.

Those with exemptions will include those with pre-existing medical conditions, children under two years of age, people with hearing impairment and those who are communicating with them, as well as those who have accommodations under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

“We understand that some people will not be able to wear masks for medical reasons. That is to be respected,” said Egli.

This will be a change for a lot of people, said Watson and Egli in their statement. But wearing a mask is a small sacrifice to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.

“Be patient. Be kind with yourself and others. Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces is new to many of us and will be an adjustment. We are all in this together.”

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