St. Catharines has become the first Niagara municipality to enact a mandatory mask bylaw for indoor public spaces from elevators to bingo halls in an effort to curb COVID-19.
Councillors questioned Niagara’s acting medical officer of health Mustafa Hirji at length about the effectiveness of masks before voting unanimously Monday night to adopt a draft bylaw that affects most people over the age of 10.
Mayor Walter Sendzik said the city doesn’t want to be a community that has to go backwards into lockdown because COVID-19 complacency set in.
“If this keeps us moving forward and not having to step back into Stage 2 or 1 when we get out of Stage 2, I think that will be for the benefit of everybody,” said Sendzik, adding he understands the frustrations of those opposed to the bylaw.
“These are difficult decisions. We’ve all got the influx of emails and text messages and phone calls and everything else associated with it, but at the end of the day we all want to do what’s best for our community long term.”
The start date of the bylaw will be determined by the city’s CAO and mayor in consultation with the acting medical officer of health.
CAO Shelley Chemnitz said she’ll be meeting with Hirji to determine what the metrics will be to choose a date. The city’s communications staff and senior staff will work on a public education campaign and signage to support businesses and operators.
“It’s not that we have to come down hard on people for not doing things, but rather that we’re working together with them to all be successful,” she said.
Sendzik said realistically, the bylaw could be put into effect Tuesday if they want, but the education piece might take two or three weeks to fully implement in the community.
The bylaw adopted isn’t relying on mask police.
City solicitor Heather Salter said the enforcement is effectively through education and voluntary compliance. Business operators are required to have a policy in place but they are not required to enforce the policy or to prohibit entry. They are empowered by the bylaw to do so.
“This is the least restrictive type of bylaw. It doesn’t require the business operator to have somebody at the door who’s going to challenge people coming in without a mask,” she said.
“It really is a voluntary compliance situation with respect to the individuals.”
Other areas that have the same type of bylaw or rules directed at operators include Toronto, York, Ottawa and Simcoe-Muskoka.
Places like Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph and Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington have a similar rule but require operators to prohibit people from entering without masks.
The St. Catharines bylaw exempts people with medical conditions that inhibit their ability to wear a mask, people unable to apply or remove a mask without assistance, people who have protections under the human rights code that would prevent them from wearing a mask and people accommodating someone with a hearing disability.
Children 10 and under will be exempt, after a request by Merritton Coun. Lori Littleton that the age be raised from the draft bylaw’s age of two.
Individuals who claim an exemption are not required to provide proof of the exemption to protect their privacy.
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The rules affect any indoor place where the public gathers, including grocery stores, shopping malls, places of worship, libraries, bingo halls, hotel common areas and city-owned facilities, among others.
It does not include day cares, schools, public transportation, hospitals and health facilities and provincial and federal government buildings.
The bylaw states that anyone who contravenes any provision of the bylaw is guilty of an offence and upon conviction is libel to a fine, and other penalties in the provincial offences act.
St. Catharines held a special meeting of council on July 6 and directed staff to draft the temporary bylaw and request that Hirji attend Monday’s meeting.
Hirji has not issued a region-wide order to wear masks like some other Ontario public health heads have done, instead saying it is up to the politicians to make those type of rules.
He told councillors Monday that the research up until March said masks didn’t work, but that was based on influenza-like illnesses, not on COVID-19. Over the last three months or so, he said there has been research saying that unlike other respiratory viruses, face coverings may have an impact with COVID-19.
Hirji said most public health expert bodies are now recommending people wear face coverings when physical distancing is not possible.
When asked why council should introduce a bylaw now — Niagara is only seeing about two new cases of COVID-19 a day — Hirji said the province is starting to lift the restrictions in society that forced people to have distance from each other.
“The impetus for keeping ourselves safe from COVID-19 is more and more falling in our own personal responsibility,” he said, adding people need to be more vigilant than ever about keeping physical distance, washing hands, wearing face coverings when distance can’t be kept and getting tested if they have symptoms.
How long St. Catharines will keep a mask bylaw in place isn’t known.
Hirji said the only logical time to back off wearing face coverings is if there’s new research showing it’s not as effective as previously thought or there comes a point where there’s an effective vaccine.
“What we’re really trying to do is set a new social norm here that we’re going to live with for a year or two years, perhaps longer, hopefully not.”
Alberta to provide COVID-19 update Wednesday afternoon – Global News
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health will provide an update on the province’s number of new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Wednesday afternoon.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw will provide the update at 3:30 p.m.
The news conference will be streamed live in this article.
On Tuesday, the province saw a slight decrease in active cases, with 85 people testing positive for COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 1,004, 84 less than the day before.
Of those active cases, 64 people were in hospital with the virus and 14 people were receiving treatment in intensive care.
Since Alberta’s first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus back in March, as of Aug. 11, Alberta has recorded 11,772, of those, 10,552 Albertans have recovered.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Four new COVID-19 cases in Waterloo Region on Wednesday – KitchenerToday.com
Region of Waterloo Public Health reported four new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday morning.
Two are due to community transmission, while the other pair are tied to travel.
So far this week, there have been 12 new cases, and a total of 1,410 since March.
The number of active cases increased by three to 25, with two of those cases currently receiving treatment in hospital.
One more case has also been resolved, improving that total to 1,263.
A total of 119 local deaths have been linked to the virus, but there have been no additional deaths reported since July 17.
Meantime, an outbreak remains active at A.R. Goudie long-term care – a resident tested positive, but no more residents or staff have since it was first declared on August 3.
Here’s the provincial COVID-19 breakdown for Wednesday:
- 40,289 total cases (95 new)
- 49 people are being treated in hospital
- 36,590 resolved cases
- 2,787 deaths (one new)
Cape Breton's Route 19 brewery closed indefinitely after customer failed to self-isolate – Global News
A brewery in Inverness, N.S., says it’s closing until further notice after a customer visited the restaurant on Sunday while failing to self-isolate after travelling to the province.
The Nova Scotia government still requires anyone travelling from outside of the four Atlantic provinces to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival as a precautionary measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Stefan Gagliardi, chief beer officer at the Route 19 Brewing Tap and Grill, told Global News on Wednesday that the brewery will remain closed as a precautionary measure.
“We found out (someone failed to self-isolate) through one of our employees who overheard a conversation elsewhere later on Sunday, and they brought it up to us,” he said over the phone.
RCMP investigated and confirmed to Global News that they have charged a 38-year-old woman from British Columbia under the province’s Health Protection Act, which carries a $1,000 fine.
Nova Scotians who work away from home frustrated, confused by self-isolation rules
Gagliardi said that the Nova Scotia Health Authority has told staff and visitors to Route 19 on Sunday to monitor for symptoms and to go to the 811 website for further direction if symptoms develop.
The brewery was told it didn’t need to close as it was not a confirmed case of coronavirus, but it still left workers feeling uncertain.
“It doesn’t feel good. It’s not a good feeling because our staff didn’t feel safe,” he said.
“As a business and, you know, our staff together, we decided we weren’t willing to take that risk.”
The facility was thoroughly sanitized on Monday morning but the restaurant will remain closed until further notice.
The closure will affect about 30 people including, kitchen and cleaning crews, bartenders, waiters and waitresses, Gagliardi said.
He says that people should follow the health recommendations set out by the province.
“It just affects us in a way that feels a little bit unfair because everybody is trying to do their best,” he said.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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