Non-medical masks will be mandatory in public indoor spaces in Mississauga

 

After weeks of debate over mandatory masking, Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel's Medical Officer of Health, and the mayors of Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, announced plans to explore measures, such as a temporary by-law, that would require residents to wear a non-medical mask inside public spaces to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Peel Public Health already strongly supports the use of non-medical masks where distancing is not possible and on transit. A time-limited, broader bylaw mandating when and where non-medical masks must be used further strengthens these recommendations and protects Peel residents," said Loh. 

"Together with the other core four behaviours of  physical distancing, handwashing, getting tested and staying home if sick, more consistent use of non-medical masks by all residents in public spaces will help drive down cases and bring this first wave to a close in our community."

The announcement is a turnaround from just last week when Loh told insauga.com that he was not considering a mandatory masking order due to falling case numbers in Peel. 

Loh said that masks will not be mandatory for children under two years of age or anyone who cannot wear one due to a medical issue. 

He emphasized that while a mask is not a substitute for physical distancing, it does help prevent infected people—who might now know they're infected—from spreading the virus to others.  

Peel (which is comprised of Brampton, Mississauga, and Caledon) is not the only region to push for mandatory masking in public indoor spaces. 

On June 29, the mayors and chairs of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area met virtually to discuss safety measures now that the majority of the province has entered Stage 2 of its economic recovery plan. During the meeting, those in attendance voted unanimously to urge the province to implement a mandate for residents of large municipalities to wear masks in indoor public settings.

While the province has declined to enact a mandatory masking order across Ontario, public health agencies do have the power to pass local bylaws mandating the use of non-medical masks.

On June 30, Toronto Mayor John Tory also announced plans to bring a mandatory masking bylaw proposal to council. 

The Region of Peel says the mayors and public health will continue to work with other municipalities to develop the best approach to regulate masks in enclosed public areas across the region. 

Measures will be considered at upcoming council meetings in July.

"Wearing a mask can serve as a visual reminder that these are not ordinary times, encourage the practice of the core four behaviours, and protect others," said Nando Iannicca, Regional Chair, Region of Peel. 

"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."

At the June 30 press conference, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said he'll hold an emergency council meeting on Thursday and work to enact a bylaw that will go into effect as early as next week. 

"We 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. Follow Peel Public Health and the Government of Ontario's guidelines on how to properly wear, fit, remove, and clean your non-medical mask to promote health and safety for all," Brown said. 

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said that any mandatory masking bylaw will be enforced by the same municipal bylaw officers who have been enforcing provincial orders related to COVID-19.

She said that, in Mississauga, the focus will be on educating the public about the benefits of mask-wearing.

"We may be done with the pandemic, but it is not done with us. We need to remain vigilant and take precautionary measures to reduce the severity of a second wave in the fall," Crombie said. 

"Mandatory masks in indoor settings are something our residents have been asking for; together with the other core four behaviours, this will allow for a wider reopening of businesses." 

Crombie said that the bylaw will be enforced if necessary, but urged people to comply out of respect for the immunocompromised and businesses that must remain open to survive. 

Loh says that masks must be worn properly to be effective and that people must wash their hands before they put on a mask and after they take it off. 

People should ensure the mask covers their nose and mouth completely and be careful not to touch or play with it while it's on. 

Disposable masks should not be reused and cloth ones should be washed with soap and hot water (or run through the washing machine) after each use. 

"Residents should also continue to practice physical distancing and wash their hands frequently. Get tested and stay home if you think you have symptoms of COVID-19 or were exposed to someone who does," the region says.

Loh said the bylaw will be reexamined periodically and lifted when safe. 

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