Hamilton joined a number of Ontario municipalities by passing a face mask bylaw 12-3 during a council meeting on Friday.
The debate was over a draft constructed a week ago by members of the city’s board of health.
In the 90 plus minute debate, the bulk of councillors pleaded for the public to stay resolute with the province’s emergency orders requiring social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Please wear a mask. We don’t want to see a situation where we have permanent unemployment come up because they had to shut down the economy again because of the second wave,” said Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark. “Wearing a mask is going to help us keep the economy moving.”
Of the three opponents, Ward 14 Coun. Terry Whitehead said such a move would be “taking people’s rights away based on an imperfect science.”
Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge was opposed, saying the bylaw might pit businesses against their customers.
“I’m not against wearing masks, I believe everybody should wear a mask, but I can’t support the bylaw that to me is putting the onus on small businesses, and businesses in general, on enforcement,” said Partridge.
Kingston, Toronto, Kitchener, Guelph, Waterloo and London are just some of the cities that enacted mandatory face-covering measures in the past few weeks requiring the general public to cover faces in public indoor spaces like retail, grocery stores, city facilities and public transit.
Temporary removal of a mask or face covering when receiving services, having a meal or engaging in athletic or fitness activity is generally permitted in all cities. The bylaws do not apply to apartment buildings and condominiums, child care facilities and schools, and areas that are not enclosed.
Most of the bylaws are temporary and expected to be reviewed bi-monthly or every three months.
Among regional councils in the Hamilton-Niagara area, the measure is not unanimous as some have not ratified bylaws and remain on the fence.
Here’s what the bylaws look like in some of the bigger municipalities across the region.
Face coverings will be mandatory while inside of any space that is accessible to the public starting Monday, July 20, in Hamilton.
There’s a $200 fine for people not complying with the bylaw.
There are exemptions for individuals who are unable to wear a mask or face covering for medical reasons, and for children under two years old and for other “reasonable accommodations.”
The bylaw will be reviewed after three months and includes a $500 fine for businesses that don’t post signs saying masks are mandatory.
Hamilton reports 4 new COVID-19 cases
On Friday, Hamilton public health reported four new COVID-19 cases. The city’s overall case count since the pandemic began stands at 873, with 864 confirmed and nine probable.
There were no new reported deaths on Friday. The city has 44 total coronavirus-related deaths with 34 connected to an institutional outbreak.
The city has one institutional outbreak at the Community Living Hamilton-Mountain Residence.
Burlington city council unanimously approved a temporary bylaw this past week and it comes into effect on July 20. It’s expected to remain until Sept. 30 unless extended or revoked by council.
The bylaw is generally consistent with Hamilton’s mask bylaw and includes individuals or organizations that are responsible for the operation of businesses or facilities with enclosed (indoor) space open to the public.
The measure applies to retail stores, malls, restaurants, bars, recreational facilities, indoor places of worship, museums and other event spaces.
The city also says it’s still working on plans to provide coverings for residents who are unable to purchase their own masks.
Those who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons and children under the age of three are two of the notable exceptions.
Halton Region reports 2 new COVID-19 cases
Halton Region reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. The region has 887 cases, including 803 confirmed positive and 84 probable cases.
The region still has 25 deaths tied to COVID-19 as of July 17, with 12 the result of an outbreak at an institution.
The region has no institutional outbreaks as of Friday.
St. Catharines mask bylaw came into effect on Friday and allows alternate face coverings like a bandana or scarf, provided it securely covers the nose, mouth and chin without gaps.
The bylaw also applies to all enclosed (indoor) public spaces open to the public, including establishments where a fee or membership is required for admission.
The bylaw also applies to all City of St. Catharines facilities open to the public, such as community centres, libraries and public transit.
Niagara Falls city council has not yet taken a position for or against mandatory face coverings at indoor public spaces. Most councillors are awaiting word on a possible bylaw encompassing all of Niagara Region, which is in front of the regional council on July 23.
On Thursday, Niagara-on-the-Lake became the second Niagara municipality to pass a mandatory face-covering bylaw.
The bylaw is almost identical to those in Hamilton, Burlington, and St. Catharines requiring masks inside any enclosed space that is accessible to the public.
Niagara Region reports 1 new COVID-19 case
Niagara public health officials reported one more coronavirus case on Friday. The region has 786 total cases, with 24 of them active.
The region has no new deaths and 64 overall dead connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The region has three institutional outbreaks at the Garden City Manor, Linhaven and Tabor Manor long-term care homes in St. Catharines.
Brantford and Brant County also passed mandatory laws requiring masks in public indoor places this week, as well as on local transit systems.
The city bylaw is now in effect while the region’s new measure starts on Monday.
People will have to wear a mask or face covering in enclosed, public indoor spaces like retail and grocery stores. This also includes city facilities and public transit.
Exceptions include children under the age of two and kids aged three to five who “can’t be persuaded” to wear a mask.
People with medical conditions that inhibit their ability to wear one and those who can’t put a face covering on or off without assistance are also exempt.
Brant County reports no new COVID-19 cases
Brant County’s health unit (BCHU) reported no new COVID-19 cases on Friday. The region has 136 total confirmed cases as of July 17.
The county still has four deaths, with 123 total resolved cases. There is one COVID-19 patient currently in hospital and is reporting eight “non-hospitalized” active cases.
The region has one institutional outbreak at Briarwood Gardens Long-Term Care & Retirement Home.
Both Haldimand and Norfolk counties have not yet taken a position for or against mandatory face coverings at indoor public spaces.
Haldimand-Norfolk reports one new COVID-19 case
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) reported one new COVID-19 case on Friday. Overall, since the pandemic began in March, the region has seen 446 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.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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