Toronto will be making it mandatory to wear face masks while inside enclosed public spaces starting on Tuesday.
The motion was presented to city council last week—with the support of Toronto Mayor John Tory and Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa—in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as more businesses start to reopen in the city.
Here’s what you need to know:
When do you need to wear a mask?
According to the mayor, the masks will be mandatory in all public and enclosed indoor spaces. This means they will be required on public transportation such as the TTC and ferries to the Toronto Islands, as well as inside shops, grocery stores and malls.
Toronto residents will not need to wear masks while at home, eating on a restaurant patio and at most workplaces where physical distancing is possible. It would also not apply to child-care centres.
“It is about public spaces where the general public has free and ready access, to try and limit the risk,” de Villa said.
While not mentioned in the bylaw, health officials have previously said that residents should wear a mask anytime where it is challenging to social distance from others.
What happens if I can’t wear a mask for health reasons?
All health officials and politicians agree that if someone is suffering from a medical condition that makes it difficult to breathe or function while wearing a mask, they should not wear one. They ask that those people try their best to remain physically distanced from others while in public spaces.
Children under the age of two also do not have to wear a mask.
When will the bylaw take effect?
The bylaw will take effect on July 7 and last until the first city council meeting of the fall, which is scheduled for the end of September or early October. At that time, council will either extend the bylaw, amend it or discontinue it.
What does this mean for schools reopening in early September?
Local health officials say the decision about whether or not children or teachers wear masks while in school is up to the provincial government. The Ontario government, in response to the mandatory mask policy, has said that it is actually up to each individual school board to decide on classroom policies.
“Each board right across the province has the flexibility,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Tuesday. “Everyone is going to have different guidelines.”
Will there be a fine for not wearing a mask?
The mayor admitted there would not be “aggressive enforcement” when it comes to the mask policy, but rather his government will focus on education.
“To be candid about it we don’t really have the resources to go around and look at every store and look at every person that is in one of those places,” he said. “We are going to rely on people by and large to get educated and to do the right thing.”
At the same time, Tory said that it is up to every business to have a policy in place to ensure compliance, suggesting a “no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service” model.
Who else is doing this?
The mayors of Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon also announced on Tuesday they intend to pass similar bylaws requiring masks to be worn inside public spaces.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said the bylaw in his city could be in effect by July 7.
No timeline has been provided for the bylaw in Mississauga or Caledon.
Why is it not mandated provincially?
The Ford government has said they will not be requiring the wearing of masks, but rather will encourage their use. Speaking on Tuesday, the premier said that the needs of regions like Peel and Toronto will be different from those in northern Ontario, which is why he can’t make masks mandatory.
“But each region has the authority to make their own rules,” he said. “I will support them on any decision that they make.”
Why is this policy necessary?
Experts have said that wearing a mask will prevent the wearer from spraying droplets on others, helping curb the transmission of the disease if they are asymptomatic.
De Villa said that requiring masks in indoor settings is essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19, but that compliance will need to be as high as 80 per cent in order to work.
“The reality is that the virus continues to circulate and that we still need to be careful,” she said.
With files from Chris Fox