REMINDER: Toronto's mandatory face mask bylaw starts tomorrow

Jul 6 2020, 8:07 am

Torontonians will be required to wear a mask or facial covering inside all enclosed public places starting Tuesday, July 7.

Last week, Toronto City Council voted unanimously to make this a requirement to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa recommended to City Council to use its legislation for the “protection of the health, safety and well-being of persons in Toronto.”

Dr. de Villa will also be reviewing recommendations regarding masks on a month-to-month basis and will be reporting if any changes are required.

“I’m encouraged by today’s council’s decision to support the use of masks or face coverings by the public in all indoor public spaces. There is growing evidence which shows that steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19, like physical distancing and frequent handwashing, may be enhanced by greater public use of masks or face coverings,” de Villa said at the time.

This new bylaw will also require for businesses to create policies to ensure that masks or facial coverings are worn in indoor public spaces.

Masks or facial coverings will be required in all public, indoor spaces including the following:

  • retail stores
  • convenience stores
  • malls, shopping plazas
  • grocery stores, bakeries, farmer’s markets (enclosed areas)
  • restaurants, bars (when permitted to open for indoor service)
  • indoor recreational facilities, gyms, swimming pools (when permitted to open)
  • libraries
  • community centres
  • community service agencies
  • personal service settings
  • churches, mosque, synagogue, temples and faith settings
  • art galleries, museums, aquariums, zoos
  • banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, stadiums, and other event spaces
  • real estate facilities such as open house, presentation centres
  • common areas in hotels, motels and short-term rentals (e.g. lobbies, elevators, meeting rooms)
  • entertainment facilities including concert venues, theatres, cinemas, casinos
  • business offices open to the public

The bylaw will not be in effect in apartment buildings and condominiums, child care facilities, and areas that are not enclosed, like a restaurant patio.

There will be exemptions made for those who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, children under the age of two years old, and other reasonable accommodations.

The temporary removal of masks when receiving services, having a meal, or engaging in athletic or fitness activity will also be permitted.

According to the City of Toronto, “A growing body of scientific evidence suggests the use of masks and face coverings is an inexpensive, acceptable, and non-invasive measure to help control the spread of COVID-19.”

The virus can spread through contact with respiratory droplets produced by someone who is infected when they cough, sneeze, or even when they speak or laugh. This includes individuals who are asymptomatic.

The bylaw is set to expire on the first day after the first City Council meeting following summer recess, unless extended by council. This meeting is currently scheduled for September 30 and October 1, 2020.

The City of Toronto and Toronto Public Health staff are in the process of creating signage and guidelines to support businesses.

Enforcement of the bylaw will initially consist of education and otherwise be on a complaint-basis.

The City has produced a list of qualities of a good mask or facial covering. They said that a mask or facial covering should:

  • Be at least two layers of tightly woven cotton or linen.
  • Cover over nose, mouth and chin, and be easy to breathe through.
  • Fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops without gaping or impairing vision.
  • Be comfortable to avoid the need for adjustments when wearing.
  • Maintain their shape after washing and drying.
  • Not contain non-breathable materials such as plastic.

They have also compiled a list of how to properly use a face mask or face covering:

  • Do not share your mask with others.
  • Wash your hands before putting on and after taking off a mask.
  • Place the mask over your nose, mouth and chin.
  • Avoid touching your face and mask while using it.
  • Change your mask as soon as it is moist or dirty.
  • Do not leave your mask tucked under the chin, hanging from your ear, or on your forehead.
  • Remove the mask by the ear loops without touching the front of the mask.
  • Put used mask in a plastic bag or directly in the laundry bin to be washed.
  • Launder cloth masks with other items using the hot cycle and dryer.

This bylaw follows a vote made by the TTC Board to make masks or facial coverings mandatory on TTC vehicles and premises. This TTC requirement began on July 2.

Masks have already also been made mandatory on the ferry to Toronto Island Parks and certain business settings, like salons and tattoo parlours.

“This bylaw makes sense from a health perspective and it makes sense from a business perspective. I know we all want to keep doing everything we can to keep this virus from spreading and to avoid a resurgence of cases like we are seeing elsewhere. Wearing masks or face coverings keeps you from unknowingly spreading COVID-19 and keeps the people around you from spreading it to you,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory.

“It is about respecting and protecting each other. I really believe that the vast majority of people want to protect their own health and the health of others and that they will do the right thing and wear a face covering.”

The City of Toronto is currently in Stage 2 of Ontario’s reopening framework which means that certain establishments like hair salons and shopping malls have reopened around the City.

Face masks and facial coverings are not a replacement for the need to keep a physical distance from others. They also do not replace the need to wash your hands often or staying home when sick.

Irelyne LaveryIrelyne Lavery

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