Blame me if you don't like mandatory face mask policy in Ottawa: Mayor Watson
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson looks on as Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health, Ottawa Public Health provides an update on the first confirmed case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
OTTAWA -- Mayor Jim Watson says you can blame him if you don’t like the mandatory face mask policy in Ottawa, adding it’s a “really selfish move” to refuse to wear one during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches mandated the use of masks in indoor public places. On Wednesday, Ottawa Public Health told people upset with the mandatory face mask policy to “direct your feedback towards us and not at businesses/employees.”
“I don’t think there were a lot of incidents. I think public health was being proactive and saying ‘look this was a policy decision,’ blame them and you can blame me as the Mayor, because we’re obviously bringing forward the bylaw next week,” said Watson during an interview with CTV Morning Live Thursday morning.
“At the end of the day, it’s in your self-interest to wear a mask because you want the next person in line at the grocery store to wear a mask as well.”
Watson and Board of Health chair Keith Egli will introduce a motion at Wednesday’s Council meeting to implement a bylaw for face masks in indoor spaces, including fines for non-compliance.
“It’s really a selfish move if you’re not wearing a mask because the mask is there for the protection of others, including your loved ones,” said the Mayor.
CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts asked Mayor Watson what a business should do if there is non-compliance of the face mask policy by customers.
“Ultimately, we ask people to call 311 and staff are very good at directing resources to help the individual store owner,” said Watson.
“In most instances that I’ve heard of from individual store owners, if people are coming into the store they’re saying I’m sorry we’re not going to serve you and they politely leave.”
Watson told CTV Morning Live that while grocery shopping on Wednesday he only saw two people not wearing a face mask. The Mayor added no fines have been issued so far for failing to wear a face mask in public.
“Ottawa residents have risen to the challenge,” said Watson.
"I know for some people they think it’s an infringement on their rights, but as I said on my tweet - we’re not asking people to climb Mount Everest, we’re asking them to put on a dollar mask.”
Ready for Stage 3?
It’s been four weeks since Ottawa moved into Stage 2 of the Ontario Government’s COVID-19 reopening plan, allowing bar and restaurant patios, barber shops, hair salons and malls to reopen. CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts asked the Mayor if Ottawa is ready for Stage 3.
Watson says the issue is in the hands of the Ontario Government.
“I’m not going to put any pressure on them,” Watson said, adding Ontario mayors had a conference call with Premier Doug Ford on Wednesday.
“The general feeling is we’ve done this very well working in collaboration with the federal and provincial governments so that we don’t get into a situation like Florida, Texas and California, which is turning into a humanitarian crisis because they rushed to get things like beaches, Disney World and restaurants and bars open and now they’re having to step back from that.”
Watson added it’s important not to rush into reopening more things.
“The worst thing that can happen is that we move too quickly into Phase 3 and then we see a spike and have to tell people ‘I’m sorry you have to close your business.”