Ottawa

Ottawa could make masks mandatory in indoor public settings

On the heels of COVID-19 outbreaks in nail salons in Kingston, Ont., Ottawa's chief medical officer of health said she's "seriously exploring" mandatory masks for anyone who wants to access indoor services.

Announcement follows outbreaks at nail salons in Kingston, Ont.

Vera Etches, chief medical officer of health, says Ottawa Public Health is “seriously exploring” making masks mandatory for residents in commercial settings. 0:52

Ottawa's medical officer of health is "seriously exploring" making masks mandatory for anyone who wants to access indoor services.

Dr. Vera Etches told reporters Monday afternoon that she's in discussions with Mayor Jim Watson and other city officials about how to mandate face coverings for workers and customers in stores, personal care clinics and other indoor public settings as the economy continues to re-open during the pandemic.

A decision is expected to be announced by the end of the week.

The announcement comes on the heels of COVID-19 outbreaks in nail salons in Kingston, Ont.

"So yes, there are some personal services like nail salons offer, where that contact with the patrons is within two metres, where you can't physically distance," Etches said. "And so the use of a mask is very important to the idea of making this mandatory."

In an email to CBC, a spokesperson for Ottawa Public Health said the agency sent public health inspectors to 60 personal services settings, like nail and hair salons, this past weekend and found 14 had issues related to a lack of mask use and not screening clients for COVID-19 infection risks.

Inspectors provided health checklists for the businesses to follow and said they "received positive feedback" and "felt that operators would comply with the regulations."

OC Transpo made masks mandatory on public transit two weeks ago, but didn't enforce the directive. If a new bylaw on mandatory masks for indoor commercial spaces is passed, it could eventually apply to transit users. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

New bylaw possible

It's still unclear exactly how the city would enforce such a mandatory mask order, but if it goes ahead, "enforcement tools" would be put in place, said Anthony Di Monte, the city's general manager of emergency and protective services.

Di Monte said there are a number of provincial options that the city could use, but they may be too heavy-handed or "clunky." He appeared to prefer a made-in-Ottawa bylaw with fines that are less severe than previous provincial penalties, which totalled more than $800 per offence.

"Obviously education will be our priority, and in cases where there may be a bit of resistance, certainly we'll try to encourage people and give warnings," Di Monte told reporters Monday.

A new mask bylaw could even be used to enforce mask-wearing on OC Transpo. The city made it mandatory to wear masks or face coverings on public transit two weeks ago, but hasn't been issuing fines or enforcing the directive.

with files from CBC's Natalia Goodwin

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