The top public health official in Toronto is now suggesting that city council should approve a bylaw making masks mandatory for residents in all “indoor public spaces.”
The announcement was made by Dr. Eileen de Villa, the Medical Officer of Health at city hall during a news conference on Tuesday. She noted that Toronto needs “as many people as possible wearing cloth masks or face coverings” to minimize the spread of coronavirus, reports CTV News.
If the bylaw is approved by city council today, it will take effect on July 7. It will then stay in effect until the end of September or early October when the first fall city council meeting takes place.
Children below two-years-old will not fall under the policy along with people who have medical conditions that don’t allow them to wear a mask.
Mayor John Tory noted that the bylaw would be “a lot of responsibility” for businesses as they would have to put policies in place that require face masks to be worn on their property.
“There won’t really be aggressive enforcement. To be candid about it we don’t really have the resources to go around and look at every store and look at every person that is in one of those places,” he said. “We are going to rely on people by and large to get educated and to do the right thing.”
On Monday in an open letter, chairs and mayors of municipalities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area asked Ontario to implement a blanket order that would make wearing masks in large municipalities mandatory. The request was refused by Health Minister Christine Elliot because local officials can implement the policy themselves due to the Health Protection and Promotion act.
In de Villa’s report, she said that it is “essential” to require masks in indoor settings to reduce the spread of coronavirus, though up to 80 percent of residents would have to comply with the rule for it to be effective.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic I have asked you to take care of each other. Today I am making this recommendation and asking for you to do this once again,” de Villa said. “Our experience has been that Torontonians are interested in protecting our city and protecting their families, their neighbours, their friends and we see this as the next logical step.”
She added that coronavirus “is unlike any infectious disease we have faced in our lifetime” and a “growing body of evidence” shows that masks can reduce spreading of the virus.
“The reality is that while our COVID-19 case numbers have increased this does not mean that there is no risk of contracting the virus on our city. The reality is that the virus continues to circulate and that we still need to be careful.”
She added that the bylaw would apply to “enclosed spaces” in public, such as shops and grocery stores.