No mask, no service: City of Hamilton moving toward mandatory face coverings

 

Hamilton’s board of health voted in favour of a new bylaw Friday (July 10) that would make masks mandatory indoors in a continued effort to curb COVID-19.

13 voted in favour, while 2 were opposed (Ward 12 Councillor Lloyd Ferguson and Esther Pauls of Ward 7). Ward 14’s Terry Whitehead was absent from the vote.

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he expects the bylaw to be ratified by council on July 17.

Mandatory face coverings would go into effect starting July 20 in Hamilton, joining the likes of Toronto, Kingston, and Waterloo.

The motion was submitted by Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city’s Medical Officer of Health.

“While cases are currently stable, and Hamilton has entered Stage 2 of the re-opening process, the risk for the ongoing spread of COVID-19 continues,” said Dr. Richardson in her executive summary to Hamilton City Council.

As of July 10, there were 854 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hamilton. 769 cases were resolved and 44 people died.

“Consultation was done with other health units who had already put in place legislation mandating non-medical masks and face coverings regarding their current experience,” continued Dr. Richardson. 

“All reported overall satisfaction and support from their community and/or businesses and reported increased uptake of use of masks in these settings without the need to issue any charges at the time of this report.”

Masks would be mandatory in commercial areas, retail spaces, and places of worship.

Businesses will be required to post signage indicating that masks are mandatory. If a person refuses to comply, businesses are expected to ask them to leave or not permit them to enter.

Businesses will also be required to ensure employees are wearing face masks while working in spaces that are open to the public. Exemptions will be made if the employee is behind a protective barrier.

Mandatory face coverings became affective on Hamilton public transit on June 22. 

Children younger than two, persons engaging in athletic activity, those who are unable to put on or take off a mask without assistance, and people with underlying health conditions would be exempt from the bylaw.

Those sleeping in homeless shelters will also be exempt.

Bylaw officers will be authorized to issue a $200 fine to those not complying. Parents can be ticketed $200 if their child is not following the bylaw.

“While the science on the use of non-medical masks by the general public is not definitive, there is a growing body of evidence on the effectiveness of these masks to act as a barrier to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Richardson.

“In modelling studies, evidence is showing that higher compliance in the wearing of masks is required to achieve a significant positive impact… at 80% public compliance, COVID-19 spread can be reduced.”

Dr. Richardson cited examples suggesting that areas, where masks were made mandatory, saw fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths from the virus.

Medical experts have been warning about a potential second wave of COVID-19, which could coincide with the annual flu season that starts in the fall, making the situation even more dangerous for those most vulnerable.

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