Coronavirus: Mandatory mask bylaw gains support of London city councillors

People wear face masks as they walk through a shopping mall in Montreal, Saturday, July 18, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. The wearing of masks or protective face coverings is mandatory in Quebec as of today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Members of London’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee have voted in favour of recommending council adopt a mandatory masking bylaw.

The committee, made up of city councillors and the mayor, decided after a discussion Monday night to put forward the proposed by law at the next council meeting Tuesday.

The bylaw would see all people entering any public establishment wear a face mask or face covering, which covers the nose, mouth and chin.

The decision came after a discussion with London Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie, who encouraged councillors to take action.

Saying that taking action would mean, “When we do have higher levels of disease, we have that extra protection,” Mackie told lawmakers, “your leadership would make the difference in helping us get there.”

Read more: Face coverings mandated in enclosed indoor public spaces as of Saturday: Dr. Chris Mackie

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Ward 2 councillor Shawn Lewis voted in favour of presenting the motion at Tuesday night’s meeting, but had a message of caution for those who might ‘mask shame’ or try and ‘police the bylaw’ themselves.

“We don’t know everyone’s personal story; we don’t know what anxieties this may cause,” Lewis said. “We don’t know what their experiences might be with PTSD or personal beliefs, and it’s very important to emphasize this might be a significant thing we are asking them to do.”

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Children under 12, people “who have a medical condition or disability which inhibits their ability to wear a face-covering” and those unable to apply or remove a face covering on their own are exempt from the new rule.

The health unit also says there is “no requirement for anyone to provide proof of exemption.”

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Face mask mandates spark protests across Canada – Jul 19, 2020

The bylaw also exempts people who are at an establishment for eating, drinking, or while engaging in athletic or fitness activities.

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Ward 6 councillor Phil Squire was one of several councillors who supported the decision with a lot of caution, speaking about the need to be careful for council to not “encroach on an area they do not have experience on.”

Speaking on the bylaw, he said, “I will grudgingly support this.”

All councillors, except Ward 1 councillor Michael van Holst, voted in favour of bringing the bylaw before council.

The new bylaw also comes with a hefty price tag for rule-breakers ranging from $500 to $100,000.

Read more: Which mask should I buy? ⁠From cotton to silk, finding the right fabrics

As it stands, city staff will be asked to report back to council every 60 days to review the bylaw and make sure it is updated with the current situation surrounding coronavirus.

The decision comes after the Middlesex-London Health Unit made it mandatory for face masks in indoor enclosed public spaces to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

On Monday, masks also became mandatory on public transit, two days after the rules for indoor public spaces took effect.

Mackie also spoke about what face coverings are not effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19 criticizing both face shields and masks.

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“Air still flows out around the shield,” Mackie said. “For those that can’t wear a mask for medical reasons, face shields might be something to consider, but it really has a minimal impact.”

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