Residents in Ottawa are being asked to mask-up when heading to indoor public spaces sooner than anticipated, following a meeting of health officers from four regions of eastern Ontario.
Ottawa's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches says residents in the city will be expected to wear masks in indoor public facilities starting at 12:01 a.m., Tuesday, July 7.
Medical officers of health from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit; Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit; Renfrew County and District Health and Ottawa Public Health (OPH) announced a regional approach to the use of masks in their respective jurisdictions on Monday, July 6.
"Increasing scientific evidence indicates that wearing a mask is an important measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission," says Dr. Etches. "It is important to have a clear and consistent regionalized approach to mandatory masks across the Champlain region, especially as we are in the middle of peak travel season."
Each public health unit will be invoking a directive under the Province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that requires individuals to wear a mask in certain enclosed public spaces. Under the directive, a person responsible for a business or organization that is open is expected to operate in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including physical distancing, cleaning and/or disinfecting as well.
A motion to institute a bylaw, ensuring that residents of the City of Ottawa wear a mask in enclosed public spaces, will be brought to city council on July 15. OPH says the directive invoked by Dr. Etches will remain in place until the bylaw takes effect. It's also expected that the bylaw will have similar, if not identical requirements.
"Our contact tracing is showing us that people with [COVID-19] symptoms have been out in small businesses, they've been in big box stores, and this is causing COVID-19 transmission," explains Dr. Etches. "Wearing a mask is only one part of being COVID-wise. We want people to wear a mask, but it should never replace the need to isolate yourself when sick."
Ottawa Public Health says a mask must cover your mouth, nose and chin to prevent respiratory droplets from your mouth and nose from reaching others or landing on surfaces.
OPH adds that until a bylaw is in place, the policy will be enacted and enforced in good faith and will be primarily used as a means to educate people on mandatory mask use in enclosed public spaces.
Some residents will be exempt from the new rule:
- Children under two years of age, or children under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally who refuse to wear a mask and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver;
- Individuals with medical conditions rendering them unable to safely wear a Mask, including breathing difficulties or cognitive difficulties;
- Individuals who are unable to apply or remove a mask without assistance, including those who are accommodated under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) or who have protections under the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.19, as amended;
- A person who is employed by or is an agent of the Operator of an Enclosed Public Space and: is in an area of the premises that is not designated for public access, or is within or behind a physical barrier (e.g., Plexiglass).
More information on the new mandatory mask directive for Ottawa can be found here.