Peel Region mayors and health officials announced making masks mandatory in all commercial and indoor public spaces in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“I am issuing a recommendation, that in the absence of further provincial direction, a time-limited regional bylaw should be enacted to require the use of non-medical masks in public places,” Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s chief medical officer, said in an announcement alongside Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon mayors.
“A regional bylaw that requires the use of non-medical masks in public would further encourage masking in our community, clarify expectations around when and where people should mask, provide a visual reminder to all of us that these are not ordinary times,” he continued.
“It is time to move from a strong recommendation to a requirement in places where physical distancing cannot be maintained such as indoor public spaces.”
A special council meeting is scheduled for Thursday to ratify the recommendation of masks in indoor, public settings. Within a week of passing the new bylaw, this would become an official, mandated requirement.
On Monday, Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area mayors requested that the Ontario government make masks mandatory, but that request was turned down as the health ministry said it “isn’t necessary” as local medical officers have the same authority to do so.
Loh said exceptions to wearing masks include those under the age of 2, people with medical conditions or those who cannot remove a mask without assistance.
“The use of mandatory masks will actually help us have a safe reopening,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said. “For those that are pleased about moving to Stage 2, I can’t see how it’s going to be possible to move to Stage 3 and see the type of decline in case counts if we don’t have the mandatory use of masks.”
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie echoed the same sentiments.
“Masks by themselves are not the answer, but they are a big part of the equation,” Crombie said, repeating other public health measures that have been recommended.
“We don’t want to enforce a bylaw, but we will if necessary. It is our hope that people will do the right thing for their families, for their friends and for their neighbours.”
Crombie said there will be no onus on businesses to provide their customers with a mask. But businesses will have the right to refuse customers, if they do not wear a mask, she said.
“If we want to beat this virus, our behaviour will have to change, for a little while.”
Johanna Downey, acting mayor for Caledon, said “it is proven that wearing a mask will slow the spread of COVID-19. As a community, we can come together and we can do this.”
Earlier this month, Brampton and Mississauga implemented a policy that all riders and customers on public transit must wear masks as of July 2.
The City of Toronto made the same announcement Tuesday morning regarding mandatory face masks in closed public settings. Toronto Mayor John Tory said if passed in city council, the bylaw would become mandatory one week from Tuesday.