Time to start wearing that mask — or risk a $240 fine

After two months of giving warnings, Ottawa bylaw officers will now hand out tickets to individuals and businesses if they don't follow the rules that require masks in indoor public spaces.

The warning period is officially over, city says

Masks are required in most public indoor spaces, including hotel lobbies, gyms, and restaurants — and both individuals and businesses could now be fined if they don't follow those rules. (Kate Porter/CBC)

After two months of giving warnings, Ottawa bylaw officers will begin ticketing individuals and businesses if they don't follow the rules that require masks in indoor public spaces.

City council passed the temporary bylaw on July 15, basing it on an earlier directive from medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches, but the idea was to only educate people about covering their noses, mouths and chins. 

But with COVID-19 cases climbing and Ottawa now deemed a hot zone for the virus, bylaw officers will now start handing out tickets. They've given more than 250 verbal warnings, but as of last week, only a single fine.

"The days of warnings are over. This is serious," Mayor Jim Watson had told CBC's Ottawa Morning earlier this week.

$240 ticket for individuals

Individuals now face a fine of $240, which includes a victim surcharge. The fine for businesses and property owners not adhering to the bylaw is $490.

Bylaw officers can issue tickets if they think a warning isn't sufficient, the city said, or if the person or business is a repeat offender.

Masks are required in most public indoor spaces, including hotel lobbies, gyms, and restaurants, while schools and child-care centres fall under different legislation. 

In late August, city council amended its bylaw to add common areas of condos and apartment buildings. It also gave the city's general manager of emergency services the power to require mask use in outdoor areas deemed high-risk.

$10K fine possible under Ontario's gathering rules

The fines under the municipal mandatory mask bylaw, currently set to expire on Halloween, aren't the only rules local bylaw officers will enforce.

As of today, the provincial government has restricted gatherings in Ottawa to a maximum of 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors.

Bylaw officers will also be enforcing those limits, which apply to gatherings like parties, dinners, barbecues and wedding receptions — whether they're held in private homes, backyards or even parks.

The new caps don't extend to places such as restaurants, movie theatres, banquet halls, gyms and convention centres.

Premier Doug Ford said the province would "throw the book" at those who break the new limits and would set a minimum fine of $10,000 for organizers of large gatherings.

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