Hamilton

Here's what you need to know about mandatory indoor masking in Hamilton

On Monday, masking indoors will become mandatory in Hamilton. Here's what you need to know about the rules.

The goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while enabling people to shop at local businesses

Indoor masking will be mandatory in Hamilton as of Monday. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

On Monday, masking indoors will become mandatory in Hamilton.

The goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while enabling people to shop at local businesses.

Here's what you need to know about the rules.

Where will I have to use a mask?

The law says people have to wear masks or face coverings in Hamilton businesses and facilities.

That includes restaurants, retail stores and malls, hair salons, places of worship, buses, bus shelters and other enclosed spaces.

Business owners will have to post signs at their entrances declaring that wearing a mask is mandatory.

Public health says masks will reduce the spread of COVID-19. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Why do I need to wear a mask?

Hamilton Public Health, and most other medical experts, say wearing a mask or face covering is an additional measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

The virus can spread easier indoors than outdoors and wearing a mask prevents the person wearing it from spreading the virus when they speak.

But not everyone supports wearing a mask.

Councillor Terry Whitehead (Ward 14, west Mountain) argued that some studies show masks aren't that effective, and that even though public health experts recommend masks, those experts aren't always right. 

About 100 anti-masking advocates also rallied in Gore Park on Sunday. They say mandatory masking infringes on people's rights.

"We should be able to control our own health as we want and if some people don't like your own decisions, they should not control your own decision," said 25-year-old Hamilton resident Adele Garbutt.

Anti-masking activists rallied at Gore Park in Hamilton on Sunday. They say mandatory masking infringes on people's personal freedom. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

But it's hard to know if others are infected. 

"Since some people who are infected with COVID-19 may have the virus and not know it, whenever people are going out and might come into close contact with other people, they should wear a face covering or mask," reads a section from the city website.

One of the lead organizers of the protest worried it cold lead to more orders like mandatory vaccination. They were joined by Justin Long, a regular yellow vest protester, part of an anti-immigration movement. Others handed out custom-made medical exemption cards to those in attendance.

WATCH | Anti-maskers use fake exemption cards to defy rules

Anti-maskers use fake exemption cards to defy rules

1 year ago
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Some anti-maskers are printing off fake exemption cards to try to defy mandatory mask rules, a move being called a slap in the face to the immunocompromised and public health guidance. 1:57

Public health maintains that masks are an important measure to overcome the pandemic.

"Increasing scientific evidence supports wearing a mask when in enclosed public spaces as an important measure in reducing COVID-19 spread, while the risk of infection continues," reads the website.

What happens if I don't wear a mask?

Every adult will need a mask unless a medical condition prevents that person from wearing it — and on that front, the person's word will be taken at face value. Children under two also don't have to wear masks.

Public health also reminds people to be respectful of those unable to wear one due to health, age or other reasons.

Kids under the age of two don't have to wear masks. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Business owners who don't comply can be fined $500, and individuals can be fined $200, although Ken Leendertse, the city's head of bylaw, says the point isn't to fine people.

"You're not going to see the heavy hand of enforcement," he told councillors. "It is all about education."

How do I know if my mask is safe to use?

The mask should cover the nose, mouth, and chin without gapping. It should fit securely to your head with ties or ear loops. It should also include at least two layers of tightly woven material.

Balaclavas, bandana, scarf, cloth, or other similar items can be used.

Masks are also just one tool people need to use to stay safe. They should continue to practice physical distancing and hand-washing.

Hamilton had 873 cases of COVID-19 as of Friday morning. Of those, 864 were confirmed and nine were probable. There's one community outbreak at the Community Living Hamilton-Mountain Residence.

Forty-four people have died and at least 806 have recovered, which means 23 are known to have COVID-19 as of Friday.

With files from Samantha Craggs

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