Question of Whether Face Masks Should be Mandatory Indoors, Where Social Distancing is Not Possible, To Be Revisited at July 23rd Council Meeting
A Brief News Commentary by Doug Draper Posted July 9th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
If you are one of however many residents across Niagara who believed approval of a mandatory mask bylaw was a given at this July 8ths special meeting of Regional Council, you were as wrong on that one as I was.
At the end of an afternoon session that went on for more than four hours, regional councillors were deadlocked on the question of mandatory mask wearing for indoor places where social distancing is not possible.
Regional councillors decided, in the end, to buy more time for review before making what could be a final decision on the issue at a regular meeting of council on Thursday, July 23rd.
In recent weeks, close to 20 other municipalities across Ontario, Waterloo, Windsor-Essex, Kingston and Toronto have passed bylaws requiring people to wear masks in indoor areas where social distancing is not possible. The bylaws allow for various exemptions, including for children two years old and younger, and people with health issues that could be aggravated by wearing a mask.
This July 6th, St. Catharines’ city council voted in favour of drafting a mandatory mask bylaw for possible approval. Talk on the streets of Niagara seemed to suggest that a ‘yes’ vote for mandatory mask wearing at the regional government level was a given. “Of course there should be a bylaw,” said many of the messages I received. “It’s a no-brainer,” said others.
Well, I guess this journalist was walking down the wrong streets. It’s just one more lesson on why non-scientific, anecdotal takes on where the community at large is on an issue cannot be counted on.
Some of the regional councillors I contacted in the days leading up to this July 8th’s special meeting said messages they were getting from constituents were more of a mixed bag. They ran ran across the spectrum, from people who said; ‘Yes, make masks mandatory’, to; ‘Don’t tell me what to do. Wearing a mask should be my choice and my choice only.’
Some political leaders across Canada and the United States, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, have so far opted for leaving it to individuals to decide whether they want to wear a mask or not in certain settings. Others, like New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, have argued on the side of those who believe that wearing a mask in places where you can’t social distance is a key way of protecting yourself and others against this killer virus.
In fairness to Niagara’s Regional Councillors, going back to at least March of this year, when the outbreaks of COVID-19 really began to flare across North America, the positions of top health experts at the federal, provincial/state and municipal levels of government on whether or not masks are necessary or should be worn have been all over the board. On the other hand the idea of wearing masks – especially in the United States – has come down as a choice between health protection and individual liberty and ending lock downs, whatever the risks. And for those who buy in to the idea that COVID-19 is, for most people, something that is “completely harmless” or little more than a mild flu, the risks seem worth it.
So here we are in Niagara with this one.
The Region’s council is tentatively scheduled to make a decision on a mandatory mask bylaw on July 23rd.
If you feel so moved to share your input on this issue, you can contact your members of Niagara Regional Council, including your Mayor who also sits on the council, and let them know how you want them to vote.
To contact your Mayor and other members of Niagara Regional Council, you can find their contact information by clicking on – https://www.niagararegion.ca/government/council/profiles/default.aspx
If you want to watch all or part of the July 8th Regional Council Meeting, click on – https://www.niagararegion.ca/government/council/council-meetings.aspx
For a recent report on municipalities in Ontario where masks are mandatory, click on – https://www.blogto.com/city/2020/07/mandatory-masks-ontario/
NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.