The City of Hamilton has taken a major step toward making non-medical face masks mandatory within indoor public spaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
During Friday’s board of health meeting, councillors voted 13-2 in favour of a bylaw that would see Hamiltonians fined $200 if they don’t wear face coverings inside local businesses and public facilities — with the exception of children under two years of age and those with certain medical conditions.
Ward 12’s Lloyd Ferguson and Ward 7’s Esther Pauls were the only councillors opposed, with Ward 14 councillor Terry Whitehead absent from the meeting.
It still needs to be ratified at next Friday’s city council meeting, but if councillors vote the same way as they did at the board of health meeting, it will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, July 20.
Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger said it’s up to municipal and regional levels of government to take the step to make masks mandatory since the province said it wouldn’t be making that decision.
“We are obliged to put into place the levels of protection that allows a business owner to point to a sign and say, ‘I’m not the one that’s requiring you to wear the mask, it’s a bylaw of the city of Hamilton’,” said Eisenberger.
“Take that argument off the table.”
He said the risk of businesses being forced to shut down if COVID-19 contact tracing leads back to their establishment is too great.
“I’ve also heard from many businesses in our community that if we ever have another shutdown the way we did back in March, that their businesses are done. They cannot survive a second round of a shutdown.”
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city’s medical officer of health, says it’s about being proactive, not reactive to a second wave of COVID-19.
“We have seen places where they’ve had that resurgence, they’ve had to adopt these stricter measures again, and that is not what any of us want to see,” said Richardson.
“We’re trying everything we can to both prevent the transmission and the spread, and the impacts of other measures.”
The bylaw is scheduled to be reviewed every three months to determine whether it could be lifted or if it needs to be extended for another three-month period.
Hamilton reports 4 new COVID-19 cases on Friday
Hamilton, Ont., reported four new coronavirus cases on Friday, which puts the city’s overall number of cases as of July 10 at 861, with 853 confirmed and eight probable, according to public health.
The city has no current institutional outbreaks and no COVID-19 patients at either St. Joe’s or Hamilton Health Sciences hospitals.
To date, 790 of the city’s known COVID-19 cases — 92 per cent — have been resolved.
There were no new reported deaths on Friday, holding the total coronavirus-related deaths at 44. Thirty-four of the city’s deaths are connected to an institutional outbreak.
Niagara Region reports 1 new COVID-19 case, 1 more death
Niagara public health officials reported one new coronavirus case on Friday. The region has 770 total cases, with 25 of them active.
The region reported one new death, but did not reveal whether the deceased was connected to the long-term care home or from a community-based case.
The region has two institutional outbreaks at the Garden City Manor and Tabor Manor long-term care homes in St. Catharines.
Eighty-eight per cent (683) of Niagara’s cases have been resolved.
Haldimand-Norfolk reports no new COVID-19 cases
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) reported no new COVID-19 cases on Friday. Overall, since the pandemic began in March, the region has seen 444 lab-confirmed, positive cases.
Officials say 396 of those patients have since recovered.
The region has 32 COVID-19-connected deaths with 27 tied to residents at Anson Place Care Centre, a nursing home, in Hagersville.
Halton Region reports 4 new COVID-19 cases
Halton Region reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. The region has 870 cases, including 788 confirmed positive and 82 probable cases.
The region still has 25 deaths tied to COVID-19 as of July 10, with 12 the result of an outbreak at an institution.
Public health says 802 cases, or more than 92 per cent, have been resolved.
The region has no institutional outbreaks as of Friday.
Seventy-nine of Halton’s total cases are connected to residents or patients in an institution.
Brant County reports one new COVID-19 case
Brant County’s health unit (BCHU) reported one new COVID-19 cases on Friday. The region has 125 total confirmed cases as of July 10.
The county still has four deaths, with 119 total resolved cases. There is just a single COVID-19 patient currently in hospital.