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York Region council considering law to make face masks mandatory

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti leads effort to enforce rules at all indoor spaces, crowded outdoor spaces
June 26, 2020
Heidi Riedner

York could be one of the first regions in Ontario to make wearing masks mandatory at all indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible.

To date, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health is the only area in Ontario to issue an order making masks or face coverings mandatory in most businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

York Region council is looking into the issue after Markham Mayor and Regional Coun. Frank Scarpitti tabled the motion at council June 25.

"The community expects us to do everything we can to ensure public safety and to stop community spread," Scarpitti said in a prepared statement.

"A policy mandating masks throughout the region is both a responsible public health response and a sound economic decision."

Scarpitti said every step possible is necessary to restore public confidence in the marketplace and create consistency among businesses throughout York Region.

Scarpitti called on the province for a similarly consistent policy June 15.

While Premier Doug Ford said masks were "critical", he added such a move would be impossible to enforce.

As a result, Scarpitti released a statement asking retailers and personal service shops in his community to implement a "no mask, no service policy", noting it is "not the time to let our guard down".

"The pandemic is not over and the threat of a second wave is a real possibility," Scarpitti said after the June 25 meeting.

"As the economy continues to reopen, we should guard against any false sense of security."

Scarpitti noted Masks4Canada, a group of doctors and members of the medical community, have signed an open letter asking federal and provincial public health officials to make masks mandatory in all indoor spaces outside the home, in crowded areas where physical distancing is challenging or impossible, and on public transit.

"In addition to the current physical distancing measures and hand hygiene, masks are critical in order to ensure a safe reopening, prevent additional outbreaks and save lives," the letter states.

In conjunction with the recent approval of mandatory masks on York Region Transit effective July 2, Scarpitti said the regionwide policy for indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces would be "another safeguard in the fight to stop COVID-19".

A staff report on the issue will be presented to council at a special meeting being held July 9.