A request by mayors from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) to make masks mandatory was denied on Monday night by the Ontario government, which said it “isn’t necessary.”
“A provincial policy isn’t necessary as local medical officers of health have the authority to institute the same policy the mayors requested under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act,” Ontario’s Health Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said implementing a mandatory mask rule at the local level would still ensure responsiveness without applying the same policy to regions in Ontario with few to no COVID-19 cases.
“We strongly urge individuals to wear a mask or facial covering when physical distancing is a challenge,” the ministry’s statement continued.
The Health Ministry said those who have asthma or respiratory illness or can’t tolerate a mask should follow other public health measures such as staying home as much as possible, physical distancing, frequent handwashing and proper coughing and sneezing etiquette.
Premier Doug Ford has previously said the province “can’t enforce” the order to make masks mandatory.
GTHA mayors and chairs met virtually on Monday to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 response and how to better protect residents as every city is now in Phase 2 of reopening.
The unanimous request by the leaders asked for a mandatory face-covering policy for large municipalities to help curb the spread of the virus.
“We are at a critical time in the fight against COVID-19. We must do everything we can to avoid flare-ups of the virus in our communities,” municipal leaders said in a joint statement.
“Committing to regional action on face coverings is one more way the GTHA municipalities are working to support the restart of our economy, which is crucial to the economic success of Ontario and Canada.”
Mayors and chairs from all GTHA regions said they are working with their local medical officers of health to see how they can advance the wearing of masks and face coverings inside businesses and other indoor spaces where people gather, including on transit, a move that has already been adopted by some municipalities.