“It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and will continue to affect our communities into next year. Regional Council’s decision to extend the Face-covering By-law reflects Niagara’s united commitment to safeguarding the health of our communities by following established public health advice” ~ Jim Bradley, Niagara Regional Chair
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted September 18th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
As daily COVID-19 case counts jump in Ontario – fueling concern about a possibly second, more deadly wave of the virus in the months ahead – Niagara’s Regional Council voted this September 17th to extend the Region’s mandatory mask bylaw for indoor places (due to expireOctober 1st) to April 1st of next year.
The extension was approved with an understanding that if we collectively get lucky, and this global pandemic is behind us before next spring, the bylaw could be rescinded at a sooner date.
Unfortunately, that is not the prognosis of many leading health and infectious disease experts around the world though who are already warning that with the annual flu season upon us this fall, and the COVID-19 still in the air, we could be in for some difficult times ahead.
A silver bullet in the form of one or more properly tested, safe vaccines for inoculating people against this virus may not be approved until early next year, many experts say, and even if it is, it may not be widely available until the middle of 2021 or later.
So a majority of Niagara Regional Councillors voted this September 17th in favour of keeping a mandatory bylaw – a bylaw first passed a few months ago for wearing masks or at least some form of face covering in indoor places across Niagara – in place until next spring, if necessary.
The extension was passed after Regional Councillors listened for more than an hour to more than half a dozen individuals from across Niagara who appeared as delegations in opposition to a mandatory requirement to wear masks.
Some of them talked about the bylaw being an infringement on their individual rights and freedom to decide for themselves. Some argued that the mandatory bylaw for mask wearing is causing them and others they know stress, and is frightening their children. A few even questioned whether the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t being overblown and is any more risky to people than the flu.
Some of those speaking against a mandatory bylaw also questioned whether masks or face coverings are an effective way of protecting oneself and others against this virus.
That being said, it should be noted that health authorities around the world recommend mask-wearing as an important way of protecting oneself and others, and this is even true in the United States where the head of that country’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and others have made that point, despite push back from the current U.S. president.
To those people who see mandatory mask bylaws as an infringement on their personal liberties and freedoms, I would only add that if, by not wearing a mask, they were only posing a risk to themselves, then God bless them. Let them do whatever they want.
There are other government rules and regulations out there that may be viewed as a restriction or infringement on what individuals can freely do too, but for the most party, they are there to protect the health and safety of everyone.
When I was 16 years old and first got behind the wheels of a car with the engine running, I would have loved it if I did not have to pass a government-mandated road test to get a driver’s license before I was allowed to wheel out of the driveway on my own. But I am sure there are others out on our roads and highways who would like to know there were hoops I had to go through before I could do that.
It is much the same with this potentially lethal virus.
There are obviously those out there who do not want to wear a mask and who may believe that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than a common flu. Some of them may even think it is a hoax.
But this virus doesn’t care about their beliefs or whatever libertarian ideology that may be driving them.
All I know is I don’t want to be in the same grocery store with them.
Interestingly enough, this September 17th, on the same day these opponents of mandatory mask or face-cover wearing made their cases to the Regional Council, the number of daily DOVID-19 cases in Niagara went up to 12 for the first time since this past July.
Across the board in Ontario this September, we are seeing daily COVID-19 case counts rising totalling above 300 for the first time since this past spring, when large parts of our community and economy were shut down.
This virus does not discriminate between those who believe that doing something in the name of the common good comes first, and those who believe that doing whatever they want in the name of their individual liberties comes first.
Beating the COVID-19 curve down is not just about looking after ourselves. It is about looking after each other and the communities we hope to live a healthy, prosperous life in.
We are all in this one together!
To read Niagara Region’s news release on the extension of the mandatory mask bylaw, click on – https://niagararegion.ca/news/article.aspx?news=1111&t=Regional+Council+extends+temporary+face-covering+by-law+to+April+2021
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