Although as of this writing we have had only 27 cases of Covid-19 in the Sault Ste. Marie area and all have been resolved, it seems I can’t escape writing about the pandemic.
I note Mayor Christian Provenzano last week urged residents to “recommit” to Algoma Public Health’s guidance to keep COVID-19 at bay in the community as a new school year nears.
He urged anyone who has novel coronavirus symptoms, including loss of taste or smell, fever and difficulty breathing, to get tested.
“If you feel funny at all, don’t chalk it up to a cold or don’t chalk it up to allergies, go get tested,” he said at last week’s council meeting.
“This is not over. We are not out of the woods on it. We have to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do in our community to keep our community safe.”
He is, of course, bang on with his comments.
But there is something that he and council should be doing on their own.
They should be passing a bylaw to put some teeth into the policy put forward by Algoma Public Health.
APH’s policy directive said effective July 17, 2020, businesses/organization will be required to adopt a policy that requires all members of the public and employees who enter or remain in an enclosed public space to wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin without gaping.”
It was a good idea and the majority of people accepted it.
But some within the public haven’t and businesses don’t seem to be policing it.
Maybe this is because the policy doesn’t have the force of law behind it, but also maybe this is because many businesses have not followed the instructions themselves.
The APH instruction is clear: The requirement to wear a face covering when in an enclosed public place includes not only members of the public but employees as well.
Yet in many businesses the person waiting on you is not wearing a mask.
In grocery stores the cashiers are behind plexiglass shields, but this only protects them from the customer. The customer is not protected from anything they might drop on the items they are handling.
Under the APH policy, there is nothing that can be done about these seeming infractions because it does not have the force of law behind it.
This is where council should step in.
It can pass a bylaw putting the force of law behind the APH policy, something many centres have done.
For example, London city council recently passed a temporary by-law, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, which requires residents to wear a mask or face covering in all enclosed publicly-accessible spaces in London.
Upon conviction of an offence under this by-law, a person or operator shall be liable to a fine in accordance with section 429 of the Municipal Act, 2001, as follows:
A minimum of $500 and a maximum fine of $100,000. In the case of a continuing offence, for each day or part of a day that the offence continues, a minimum of $500 and a maximum fine of $10,000, and the total of all daily fines for the offence is not limited to $100,000..
Those are pretty hefty fines and would certainly catch the attention of the public and business owners.
Algoma Public Health and Public Health Sudbury and Districts blew it by attempting to go it alone, instead not following the route of other health agencies in the province who approached the councils in their communities to pass bylaws to put the force of law behind their proposals.
These bylaws will not be in force forever, but they are required at this time to keep the present coronavirus at bay.
So I suggest that rather than simply asking people to “recommit” to following APH guidance that the mayor approach council about enacting a bylaw to put the force of law behind it.
Other than that, he will fall into the category of governors in Georgia and Florida who can’t bring themselves to mandate the wearing of masks even though Covid-19 is rampant in their states.
Premier Doug Ford stands with them, seemingly unable to summon the courage to do the necessary deed either.
We are in good shape in our area. We should do everything possible to keep it that way.
Hence the requirement for a bylaw.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS manager Charlie Montoyo and some of his coaching staff can be seen during major league baseball games wearing neck gaiters, which are made of thin, stretchy material, instead of masks, in the fight against spreading the virus.
I notice some players on the Jays and other teams are using this method also.
They should be apprised of a study by researchers at Duke University which found the neck gaiters may be worse than not wearing a mask at all because they break up larger airborne particles into a spray of little ones more likely to linger longer in the air.
While knocking the use of the thin polyester spandex gaiters, the Duke study found some cotton cloth masks are about as effective as surgical masks.
IN ANOTHER KNOCKDOWN, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States said face masks with valves or vents do not prevent spread of the coronavirus.
The CDC warned against wearing masks with exhalation valves or vents, a type of face covering made for hot and dusty construction work that has become a popular pandemic accessory because of its seemingly high-tech design.
“Masks with one-way valves or vents allow air to be exhaled through a hole in the material, which can result in expelled respiratory droplets that can reach others,” the CDC said. “This type of mask does not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others.”