Toronto’s city council has voted to make non-medical masks and face coverings mandatory in indoor public spaces to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.
« It is about respecting and protecting each other, » Mayor John Tory said at a morning news conference, adding that it will be a key element to reopening the city safely.
« We hope there are more and more people out in the stores and in the businesses across the city. We want that to happen for the sake of our economy and for the sake of returning to a nearer to normal kind of life. »
The recommendation was included in a report from Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, that was approved by council during its Tuesday meeting.
The new regulation goes into effect July 7 as a temporary bylaw, though Tory and de Villa are encouraging residents to begin following the order immediately.
The rule will go into effect just days after the city will also make masks or face coverings mandatory on its public transit system.
They also noted that « suitable » exceptions will be made for anyone who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, as well as for children under two years old.
Tory said there will not be « aggressive enforcement » of the new bylaw, and that the city will instead focus on educating the public about the importance of the order.
Fines for violations have not yet been set by local courts, though the city solicitor said she expects the figure to be « in the ballpark » of $750 to $1,000.
Masks have worked to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in other jurisdictions in which residents consistently wear them, and a mandatory mask rule results in higher uptake.
Toronto’s policy would remain in place at least until a city council meeting scheduled for September 30, when the order could be extended if deemed necessary, Tory said.
« We know we are at a critical time in the fight against COVID-19, and that we must do everything we can to avoid the flare-ups that we’ve seen in other places, » said Tory.
The news comes one day after a call from mayors throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area for a mandatory mask policy across Ontario was rejected by Premier Doug Ford’s government.
Ford has repeatedly said that he believes such a policy would be impossible to enforce, and that his government trusts people to make responsible decisions when they leave their homes. The province has opted instead for a policy of strongly encouraging the public to wear non-medical masks and face coverings in busy indoor spaces.
A spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Health, however, pointed out that local medical officers of health have the power to implement face mask policies in their respective health regions under existing legislation, namely Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie also held news conferences this morning to announce similar recommendations in Peel Region.
Asked about online videos capturing confrontations over masks at grocery stores and businesses in the United States, Tory said he believes that people opposed to wearing a face covering represent a « tiny, tiny minority. »
As of Monday evening, there have been 14,270 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Toronto and 1,090 deaths.
Meanwhile, the city of Kingston, Ont., has already made mask use mandatory for workers and customers at many indoor public locations following an outbreak at a local nail salon.
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