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London transit chair wants mandated masks, medical officer of health says there’s no need

FILE.
FILE. Marty Thompson / 980 CFPL

London Transit Commission (LTC) chair and councillor  Phil Squire wants the Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU) to make face masks mandatory on city buses amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

This comes as other jurisdictions, like Windsor-Essex and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, have recently mandated the use of masks.

Currently, the LTC is requesting that riders wear face coverings wherever possible. While Squire acknowledged that mandatory mask policies are difficult to enforce, he suggests it’s important to set a clear message.

“I think it needs to come from the health unit and the reason for that is I think it has to be consistent across all levels in London,” said Squire.

“My view as I’ve gone around the City of London is there are a lot of people who seem to say they want to wear masks, but in practice I’m not seeing it to the extent that one would expect.”

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However, when asked about Squire’s comments during Monday’s COVID-19 media briefing, medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie says a mandate isn’t necessary locally.

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“The communities that have used mandatory masking are communities that have much higher rates of coronavirus. Toronto was trending about three times the rate of the Middlesex-London area when they implemented mandatory masking on their transit,” Mackie said.

“Windsor is about twice the rate here and in Guelph where masks have been mandated the rate is about 25 per cent higher than in Middlesex and London.”

Mackie noted that while the health unit is allowed to “make orders that are deemed necessary to contain serious infectious disease threats like coronavirus,” there are limits based on ethical and legal frameworks.

“Both of those require that we try other methods before using coercive methods that would force people to do something,” he explained.

“So in circumstances where those coercive methods are needed, we absolutely don’t hesitate to use them. What we’re seeing in this situation is that we’ve had only a handful of cases linked with any LTC transportation and we’re actually seeing case counts dramatically decline in our community.”

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Mayor Ed Holder also shared his thoughts on masks at the Monday meeting.

“Using Toronto Transit Commission as a model is interesting because while on one hand it may well be mandatory, they are not enforcing it,” he said.

“So how do you go to one hand where you say ‘you have to have it, but by the way, if you don’t, there’s no there’s no penalty associated with it.'”

Holder echoed Mackie’s comments, saying if they were to mandate masks, it would be “with appropriate medical evidence and with the appropriate direction to residents.”

TTC masks mandatory for passengers, staff beginning July 2
TTC masks mandatory for passengers, staff beginning July 2