Coronavirus: St. Catharines votes for mandatory mask bylaw

Don Mitchell / Global News

St. Catharines city council passed a temporary bylaw on Monday night making masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces.

The start date of the act has yet to be determined and has been put in the hands of the city’s chief administrative officer and Niagara Region’s medical officer of health.

The decision also applies to all City of St. Catharines facilities open to the public, such as community centres, libraries and public transit.

Councillors spent just over an hour asking questions of the region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, and deciding, in the end, to amend and adopt a bylaw that relies on the compliance of businesses to make sure anyone over the age of 10 has a mask in an enclosed indoor space.

Read more: Ontario reopening Stage 3 — Gathering limit increasing as indoor dining, gyms permitted to reopen

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Businesses will also be required to provide hand sanitizer to customers upon entry.

Exceptions including daycares, schools, transportation, hospitals and health facilities as well as provincial and federal government buildings.

People with medical conditions or are unable to apply or remove a mask may be exempt as well.

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In a pitch for the bylaw, Mayor Walter Sendzik told councillors he did not want the city to slip back to Stage 1.

“If this keeps us moving forward and not having to step back into Stage 2 or 1 when we get out of Stage 2, I think that will be for the benefit of everybody,” Sendzik said during Monday’s session.

Last week, Sendzik laid out terms of a mask bylaw at a special council meeting.

The mayor argued that St. Catharines and Niagara Region are destinations that attract people from all over the country and beyond, and that the city would not be able to “live in a bubble” and protect the community from “people in communities outside of Niagara.”

Read more: 2 ships collide head-on in Ontario’s Welland Canal, video shows

The decision comes hours after the province decided to keep Niagara and nine other regions in Stage 2 of the province’s COVID-19 reopening plan.

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The city will now join a number of Ontario municipalities that have enacted mandatory face coverings either through a bylaw or public health order including Kingston, Toronto, Burlington, Kitchener, Guelph, Waterloo and London.

Brantford and Hamilton will put proposed mask bylaws in front of councillors this week.

Meanwhile, a potential bylaw mandating face coverings for all of Niagara Region is still up in the air. The issue is expected to be in front of the regional council on July 23.

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