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Face masks mandatory accessories in Oakville: Update

Face masks mandatory
Face masks mandatory accessories in Oakville: Update
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Kim Arnott

Kim Arnott

Kim Arnott is a graduate of McMaster University and Sheridan College’s journalism program, her reporting has appeared in dozens of daily and community newspapers, magazines and specialty publications over the last two decades.

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Face masks will be mandatory in all public indoor spaces in Oakville and throughout Halton, as of July 22.

Halton regional council has voted unanimously to mandate the masks, with some exceptions for age, medical issues and during some activities.

Oakville councillors threw their support behind a region-wide bylaw at a special virtual meeting held on July 8.

The move comes despite last week’s advice from Halton’s medical officer of health that making face masks mandatory is unnecessary given the region’s low number of active cases and ample capacity in the healthcare system.

Masks or face-coverings are already required on Oakville Transit, as of July 2.

Public support cited for making masks mandatory

Several councillors justified the mandatory mask rule based on public support.

Ward 4 councillor Allan Elgar said he has received over 300 emails on the subject, with about 90 per cent in favour of mandating face coverings.

“To me, that’s a pretty strong indication that the people of Oakville want this to be done and they want it now,” he said.

Ward 3 councillor Janet Haslett-Theall agreed, saying, “The overwhelming message from residents has been, ‘Put this in place now’.”

Despite that, the only two members of the public to address council urged against the move.
One spoke of her personal inability to wear a face mask without impacting her health. She also noted scientific evidence questioning the effectiveness of masks.

The other delegation noted that a recent traced outbreak in Kingston found all cases resulted from close, prolonged contact, not “casual indoor contact” that would come from passing someone in a grocery store.

 

Enforcement difficult

While most councillors offered nothing but complete enthusiasm for masks, words of caution came from Ward 1 councillor Beth Robertson and Mayor Rob Burton.

Noting the value of giving people notice of the upcoming rule change, Burton reminded councillors of the town’s relative safety.

“We’re not in a situation of urgent threat,” he said. “Our hospitals are empty of COVID cases. Our infection rate is extremely low. We’ve gotten here and flattened the curve with voluntary cooperation from the vast majority of our community.”

He also suggested that enforcement of the bylaw will be difficult.

The phone line in place to allow people to register COVID-related complaints about others will remain operational.

 

Councillor fears divisiveness and judgement

face masks mandatory

Ward 1 councillor Beth Robertson

Robertson said she prefers voluntary cooperation over mandated face masks but decided to support the motion because of the fear she heard from many people about their safety in public places.

But Robertson also expressed concern about the divisiveness of the requirement and the harsh judgement people are expressing toward those not wearing masks.

She urged people to be kind to one another and “assume that people who do not wear a mask have a reason and that’s their reason.”

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