Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Friday, July 10, 2020 11:46AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 10, 2020 12:52PM EDT
Face coverings are now mandatory across most of the GTA after new bylaws went into effect in Peel and Durham regions on Friday.
Masks have been mandatory in indoor settings in Toronto since Tuesday but had remained optional in a number of other GTA communities while their respective councils met to debate the issue.
That is, however, quickly changing.
On Friday separate bylaws requiring masks in indoor settings went into effect in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon. Durham Region residents will also be required to wear masks in public indoor settings as of today following guidance from Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Kyle that was issued earlier this week.
Meanwhile, York Region Council has voted in favour of its own mandatory mask bylaw that will go into effect on July 17 and Halton Regional Council will meet on July 15 to consider a similar bylaw.
All of the various bylaws and orders exempt younger children and anyone with an underlying medical condition that makes it difficult for them to wear a mask.
“We believe this is critical for the reopening. If we want to get to stage three we have to get our numbers down and all the top medical officials are saying this is the tool to do it.” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown told CP24 on Friday. “We are going to be encouraging compliance and if there are instances where people are intentionally ignoring the warning and intentionally ignoring the advice of medical professionals then absolutely we are going to lay fines.”
The City of Brampton will be mailing three disposable masks to every household as a way to “kickstart” the new bylaw, Brown said.
He said that as part of that package residents will also receive a letter from Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh advising them on how to properly wear a mask.
Speaking with CP24 on Friday afternoon, Loh said that the hope is that community transmission continues to abate and that the various bylaws can eventually be repealed.
“I don’t necessarily find it the most comfortable thing either but the reality is we do know and scientific evidence is clear that COVID-19 can spread before people actually show symptoms,” he said. “So the evidence is increasingly pointing to the idea that if you wear non-medical masks, especially indoors, that will help reduce the respiratory droplets that we may produce and will help in some way in continuing to control spread in our community.”
Violators of the mask bylaws could face fines of up to $100,000, though most officials have said that they will largely rely on the cooperation of the public and don’t have any enforcement blitzes planned.
Speaking with reporters at a press conference on Thursday, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said that going forward wearing a mask in public will just become “the new way of life.”
“We can’t get complacent. If you leave our house don’t forget your keys, your wallet and your mask. I know they are uncomfortable and awkward but I think we can all agree that it is far better than to get the virus or to knowingly give it to someone else,” she said.
The mayors and chairs of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area municipalities previously asked the province to issue a blanket order making masks mandatory in large municipalities but Health Minister Christine Elliott refused to do so, citing the fact that local officials already had that authority.