Residents of the Sault have done well in following Algoma Public Health’s policy directing that businesses/organizations 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.
I think that has gone a long way toward keeping the infection rate low in the Sault area with, as of this writing, only 58 positive cases being reported out of 59,796 tests and only one remaining active.
But over the past few weeks I have noted some loosening up within both the public and businesses.
I note more among the public not wearing masks, some flat out saying that no one is going to force them to do so either. And even with some who are wearing them, it is not being done correctly. Some are wearing them below the nose and in more extreme cases, below even the mouth.
In regard to businesses, some employees working behind protective Plexiglass shields can be seen not wearing masks.
As it is only a policy as APH does not have the power to mandate the wearing of masks, there is no penalty for business owners who do not require both employees and customers to wear masks, nor is there any penalty for the employees or the customers.
Only a bylaw passed by city council will do that, since the provincial government is on record as saying that mandating the wearing of masks is a step it doesn’t want to take, believing, it seems, that it won’t go over well politically with the electorate.
Our council received an update on the Corona-19 virus and APH’s policy from Dr. Jennifer Loo, then associate medical officer of health, this past summer.
At the time some councillors brought up the subject of a bylaw that would have given some teeth to the APH policy but they didn’t press it, the result seeming to be that they could quickly come up with a bylaw if and when we got hit hard with the virus.
I would have preferred council to have chosen to be proactive rather than reactive in this situation.
After all, the virus seems to be rearing its ugly head in greater numbers across the country.
In Ontario, the provincial government ordered lockdowns in the hotspots of Toronto and Peel Region starting this week, although schools and child care centres will remain open.
The move will close cinemas, gyms, museums and sports facilities, and will restrict restaurants to all but delivery and takeout. Retail stores are also set to be limited to curbside pickup and delivery only.
This is somewhat different than some of the moves made in the United States, where places like New York have closed down schools but allowed the rest to remain open.
Considering the positivity rate in schools is much lower than in the other places named, there seems to be some logic missing from the decision-making process.
My worry is that when the virus strikes, it can multiply in clusters very fast.
That is why I would like to have seen council mandate the wearing of masks
The APH policy got most of us wearing them. A bylaw with the force of law and its attendant penalties behind it would go a long way toward bringing the rest along.
Those who don’t will get hit pretty hard in the pocketbook.
The city doesn’t have to go far to look for examples of cities with bylaws.
London city council this past summer 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..
As I said in an earlier column, those are pretty hefty fines and would certainly catch the attention of the public and business owners.
All it would have taken for the Sault to have a bylaw would have been for Loo to ask council for one.
Instead, the health unit simply went on its own, putting forth a policy that it hoped businesses, organizations and the public would follow.
These bylaws will not be in force forever, but I believe they are required at this time to keep Covid-19 at bay.
I realize that if the request for a bylaw comes to council it could move quickly to bring it about.
But I would still prefer that it was already on the books.