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City of Ottawa 'seriously exploring' making masks mandatory indoors: Etches
OTTAWA -- Ottawa's top doctor is "seriously exploring" options to make face masks mandatory in indoor spaces across Ottawa during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches told reporters on Monday a decision on whether face masks will be mandatory will be made by the end of the week.
"While the data shows that many people are already doing the right thing by wearing a mask, we are seriously exploring our options for making masks mandatory in commercial settings in Ottawa," said Dr. Etches.
"I'm having conversations with the mayor, our city partners, our neighbouring health units to make sure that we're well coordinated in our actions, and I anticipate providing an update on the decided approach before the end of the week."
On Friday, Kingston announced face masks will be mandatory in all indoor places following an outbreak of COVID-19 linked to a nail salon.
Ottawa Public Health has previously "strongly recommended" people wear a face mask when physical distancing is not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, the Mayor's Office said Mayor Jim Watson would support the recommendation for mandatory face masks if Dr. Etches makes the decision.
"Ottawa Public Health is exploring all possibilities surrounding mandatory masks in indoor commercial spaces. Additionally, Bylaw is reviewing enforcement options with respect to mandating the wearing of face masks," said the statement from the Mayor's Office.
"Should Dr. Etches recommend the use of facemasks in indoor commercial spaces, Mayor Watson would be fully supportive, as it is critical that we do everything we can to limit the transmission of COVID-19 in our communities."
According to phase one of Ottawa Public Health's engagement strategy, 90 per cent of residents agreed or strongly agreed they would be willing to wear a non-medical mask in order to access services.
Dr. Etches said preliminary data from Ottawa Public Health's phase two engagement strategy showed 71 per cent of residents wore a mask in indoor public spaces either most of the time or always over the past week.
"It may be uncomfortable to wear a mask, especially in warmer weather however wearing a mask will protect others," said Dr. Etches.
Earlier this month, the City of Ottawa made face masks mandatory on OC Transpo buses, the O-Train, on Para Transpo vehicles and in transit stations.
The medical officer of health said Ottawa Public Health and the city are looking "seriously" at the "different options" to make masks mandatory in indoor spaces where people can not practice physical distancing.
"There are different ways to move forward with this, and different options for enforcement. This is part of what we're talking to our city partners, bylaw, legal, our neighbours about, making sure we have a consistent approach," said Dr. Etches.
"We know a lot of people are doing the right thing wearing masks, and we appreciate that this culture is shifting."
City of Ottawa general manager of Emergency Services Anthony Di Monte said the city is exploring a possible mandatory face mask policy, including fines for non-compliance.
Di Monte said educating people on wearing face masks would be the focus for the City of Ottawa.