Mandatory mask by-law to be brought before Ottawa city council July 15
OTTAWA -- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says a motion to create a by-law that mandates masks in indoor public spaces in Ottawa will be brought before City Council July 15.
On Monday, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said Ottawa Public Health is "seriously exploring" options for making masks mandatory in public settings.
Etches has strongly recommended making masks mandatory.
Mayor Jim Watson previously said he would not be opposed to a mandatory mask order.
In a tweet Friday, Watson said the motion to create a by-law mandating mask use in indoor public spaces will be put forward by Board of Health Chair Keith Egli. Watson will second the motion.
"Over the course of Ottawa's response to COVID-19, Dr. Vera Etches and Ottawa Public Health have encouraged the use of cloth masks when unable to maintain a two-metre physical distance," Watson said in a statement. "It is not always possible to know going into an indoor public space whether or not maintaining a two-metre physical space can occur. [...] Additionally, increasing scientific evidence indicates that the use of masks is an important measure to help control the spread of COVID-19.
"This is why the City of Ottawa will join other municipalities across the Province of Ontario and will mandate the use of cloth masks in many indoor public spaces."
Details of the by-law, including when it would come into effect, how it would be enforced, what criteria would determine when it is no longer needed, and which spaces would be affected were not immediately available.
In a statement, Ottawa Public Health said no additional details would be shared Friday.
"As you can appreciate, information and details are still being ironed out. Further details will be provided at the joint media availability on Monday, July 6."
A second statement from OPH spokesperson Eric Leclair, on behalf of Board of Health Chair Keith Egli said the by-law is meant to create more protection against the virus.
"The intent of the mandatory mask by-law is to work with our community to help foster another layer of protection against COVID. The details of the by-law are still being worked out with our City partners and other stakeholders," the statement said.
Ottawa Public Health posted a seven-tweet thread on Twitter, outlining its case for mandatory mask use.
"We are once again in a period of change. The emerging evidence shows us that wearing cloth masks in indoor public spaces is a necessary measure to help keep our community safe; especially as we all begin gathering again. We know that this transition won’t be easy for you," one of the tweets says.
The Ottawa Board of Trade issued a statement in favour of the by-law.
"We commend the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health for their decision to require the use of non-medical masks in public with certain exceptions. It is the right and smart thing to do for our community health and our economy," said Ottawa Board of Trade President and CEO Sueling Ching.
Masks are already considered mandatory on OC Transpo, though the transit service does not deny boarding to someone without a mask.
Other cities in Ontario have announced similar mask orders. Masks are required in all indoor public places in Kingston, and will soon be required in Toronto and in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit's jurisdiction, which covers places like Cornwall and Hawkesbury.
Ottawa Public Health says a recent EKOS poll suggests 73 per cent of residents already wear masks in indoor public settings either most of the time or always.
Our recent analysis shows the spread of COVID-19 in Ottawa slowed significantly in the month of June, with 132 new confirmed infections, compared to nearly 600 in May and more than 1,100 in April. Hospitalizations and deaths are also down month-over-month.
However, Dr. Etches says just a 20 per cent reduction in pandemic control measures, such as physical distancing, hand washing, and mask use, could lead to a second wave of infections. Nearly half of all recent infections in the city have been linked to community transmission.
Watson says more information will be delivered by Dr. Etches on Monday, July 6.