Hamilton considering making indoor mask wearing mandatory
'I would support having masks indoors,' the mayor says, and it will come to council soon
Hamilton public health officials are looking at making mask wearing mandatory indoors, says the city's mayor.
Fred Eisenberger says there'll be a potential bylaw coming to a city council meeting in the near future. He's working with Hamilton Public Health Services on it now.
"I would support having masks indoors," he said during a Tuesday media briefing.
"It gives people a greater comfort level, and it helps businesses around the ambiguity of who should and should not be wearing a mask. We know that masks are effective."
"It's currently under discussion, so I expect that before too long, we'll bring something to council for consideration around where masking will be required and how we're going to set that into policy."
Masks are already mandatory when riding the bus, and free masks will be available at the MacNab transit terminal for riders who forgot their own.
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, medical officer of health, says Hamilton's case rates are still low enough that the city has some time to think about it.
"We have a bit of time to step back," she said, "and look at the issue a little further as more evidence comes out."
The city already has a temporary physical distancing bylaw, which prevents people from being within two metres of someone outside of their social bubbles. Bylaw enforcement officers would enforce a mask bylaw the same way, says Paul Johnson, head of the city's emergency operations centre.
So far, 64 people have been ticketed under the physical distancing bylaw. Johnson says the point is to educate people, not ticket them.
"We don't have enough officers, we don't have enough hours in the day, we don't have enough eyes on, that we could do this type of work across the city, the same way we couldn't with physical distancing." But it allows bylaw officers to "engage in a conversation."
Eisenberger has already joined a group of GTHA mayors and chairs calling for the province to mandate mask usage when people can't keep two metres away from each other.
"Any such order should apply to indoor public settings and would include appropriate exceptions for age and health," the Monday statement said.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says a province-wide directive isn't necessary, and if it is, medical officers of health can issue a Section 22 order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Richardson says there's no evidence that's necessary in Hamilton yet.
City officials are discussing what a mask bylaw might look like, including where masks would be mandatory and what the penalty would be.
Eisenberger says he knows people make arguments about personal freedom when it comes to wearing masks.
"I think we're way past that, in many respects, in terms of what COVID has done."
The city knows of 61 residents with COVID-19 right now. Since the pandemic started, 842 people (834 confirmed, eight probable) are known to have had it, up from 834 on Monday. Of those, 737 people have recovered and 44 have died. Fifteen people are in hospital.
In the last 10 days, the largest growth has been among people aged 30 to 39, and kids under 10.
Only one person is confirmed to have COVID-19 in Brant/Brantford.
There's been one more diagnosis Tuesday, bringing the total case count to 122. Of those, 117 people have recovered and four have died.
Seventeen more people have recovered from COVID-19 in Haldimand-Norfolk. There are 178 people known to have the virus, down from 199 on Monday.
All told, the counties have seen 444 cases, of which 234 have recovered and 32 have died.
The number of known active COVID-19 cases in Halton has reduced by two. Right now, 54 people are confirmed to have the virus, down from 56 on Monday. The overall case count is 835 (754 confirmed, 81 probable), up from 833 Monday. Of those, 756 people have recovered and 25 have died.
In Burlington, 11 people have the virus right now. The city has seen 172 cases (153 confirmed, 19 probable), up from 171 Monday, of which 154 recovered and seven have died.
There are outbreaks at CAMA Woodlands (no current resident cases) and Creek Way Village (one resident).
Six more people have COVID-19 in Niagara compared to Monday. Thirty-three people are known to have the virus Tuesday, up from 27 the day before.
There have been 759 cases, up from 753 at the start of the week, of which 665 have recovered and 61 have died.
There are outbreaks at Crescent Park Lodge in Fort Erie and Garden City Manor in St. Catharines.