OTTAWA -- A top City of Ottawa official suggests face masks will become commonplace on OC Transpo buses and the O-Train during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City of Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health are working on developing a formal policy for masks on public transit, while OC Transpo recommends all passengers wear a mask.

The Ontario Government is now recommending people wear face coverings when physical distancing is not possible. The Ministry of Health recommends passengers on public transit use masks, particularly when physical distancing is not possible on buses and trains. 

Emergency and Protective Services General Manager Anthony Di Monte told reporters Wednesday afternoon that OC Transpo has been working on a face mask policy, and speaking with other transit services across the country.

“I think it’s quite clear it’s something that our medical experts are recommending, so we’ll probably be moving to that,” said Di Monte said about requiring face masks on public transit.

“I don’t know about the word mandatory, I don’t think we’ve landed there yet. I think it would be commonplace certainly that when anybody enters the public transit system they would probably in the future be wearing a mask.”

Appearing on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches was asked if face masks should be mandatory on public transit.

“I think this is a really important question to examine, and I’m happy to be working with (Transportation Services General Manager) John Manconi and the team looking at what’s the best approach on public transit,” said Dr. Etches.

“It’s an essential service, people need to take public transit to get to work and it is a place where it is hard to physically distance. We need to protect everyone on the bus and those masks are an extra layer of protection.

Earlier this month, OC Transpo recommended all passengers wear a face mask or covering while riding buses and the O-Train. All OC Transpo and Para Transpo operators now have masks they can wear during their shifts.

“I think when we talk in language like mandatory; we need to make sure some of the barriers are addressed. We need to make sure if something is going to be mandatory, people have access to masks, that people know how to use the mask properly,” said Dr. Etches.

Mayor Jim Watson told CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron that city staff are looking into a possible policy for masks on public transit, adding there is no easy answer for what to do with a bus or a train full of people.

“When I’m going to go on the train, I’m going to wear a mask because I don’t want to spread the germs and I don’t want to contract the germs either.”

Watson says the city is looking at plexiglass shields for the operators on buses.

A plan for COVID-19 and Ottawa’s public transit system will be presented during a Transit Commission meeting on June 1.