Ontario now recommends wearing face masks on public transit

May 20 2020, 10:38 am

The Government of Ontario is now recommending that individuals wear face masks when taking public transit as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

On Wednesday, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said that taking public transit is essential for restarting the economy.

“Anyone travelling on public transit must wear a face covering,” Mulroney said.

However, it must not be used on children under the age of two, or if the individual has trouble breathing, and if they struggle to remove the face mask on their own.

She added that more guidelines will be coming for transit agencies soon.

The Ford government provided new recommendations in order to assist provincial transit agencies in protecting staff and riders in this new environment.

The Ministry of Health is recommending the following measures be put in place on transit:

  • Physical distancing of at least two metres by admitting fewer passengers and using physical markers between seats;
  • The use of face coverings, particularly when physical distancing is not feasible;
  • Ensuring the availability of alcohol-based hand rub upon entering and exiting the vehicle;
  • Implementing engineering controls like plexiglass windows between drivers and passengers; and
  • Enhanced cleaning, particularly of high-touch surfaces.

“Ontario’s public transit systems are critical to supporting the economy and getting people where they need to go as the province begins to reopen,” said Mulroney.

“The health and well-being of all transit workers and passengers is a top priority for our government and we will be working with transit agencies to ensure that public transit can continue to operate safely.”

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said as Toronto begins to open the transit system will see riders return.

“While we have a flexible plan to put service where it’s needed, we are reminding customers about public health advice to wear a face covering to minimize risk of virus spread.”

Premier Doug Ford said that if coronavirus cases go in the “wrong direction” the province will not hesitate to “roll things back.”

“We are tracking the rate of spread, and looking for any sudden surges or flare ups. I want to be crystal clear, we will take any action necessary. If things go in the wrong directions we won’t hesitate to roll things back,” Ford said.

To assist the public, the Ministry of Health released specific recommendations on how to choose, wear, and care for appropriate face coverings used in public where physical distancing is not possible, along with additional safety measures for provincial transit agencies.

“Now that we are in Stage 1 of our Framework for Reopening the Province, more people will be returning to workplaces, going to stores and parks, and using public transit,” said Ford.

“I strongly urge everyone to continue following the public health advice, such as physical distancing and restricting gatherings to five people or less. Although we are making progress, COVID-19 is still a risk that we must guard against. Please stay safe and protect yourself and others.”

Since the province is reopening, the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts are recommending that individuals wear a face covering where physical distancing is not possible, such as on public transit or in a small grocery store or pharmacy.

In order to assist people and reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, the Ministry of Health released the following face covering recommendations:

  • Wear your face covering safely and snugly to cover your nose and mouth, without any gaps. Ensure your face covering is made of at least two layers of tightly woven material and can be cleaned multiple times without losing its shape;
  • Medical masks, such as surgical and N95 masks, should be reserved for use by health care workers, those providing direct care, first responders and individuals who are ill and must leave their home for essential reasons such as seeking medical care, picking up medication or groceries;
  • Face coverings should not be placed on or used by children under the age of two; anyone who has trouble breathing; and anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance.

“If you need a face covering, it is critically important people wear one that is appropriate for the situation,” said Minister of Health, Christine Elliott. “Those taking transit or going out who can’t physically distance should wear non-medical grade cloth masks. We need to reserve all of the medical masks to protect our frontline health care workers, first responders and people who are ill.”

Workers and employers may also consider using face coverings as an additional public health measure in addition to mandatory occupational health and safety measures.

To date, Ontario’s total is now 23,774 but 76.5% of the cases have been resolved, with 18,190 patients recovered with 1,962 reported deaths.