Local mask debate adds to confusion
Published Thursday, July 16, 2020 6:26PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, July 16, 2020 6:51PM EDT
LONDON, ONT. -- As civic and public health officials grapple over whether to make masks mandatory in all buildings open to the public, the only thing that seems to be constant is the ongoing confusion.
Among the questions being raised are: Who makes the call? How far reaching would it be? Who enforces it?
Middlesex-London Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Chris Mackie, has issued an order making masks mandatory in all personal care settings and transportation businesses.
It doesn’t take effect until Monday, but pressure is already mounting to make them mandatory in all public places indoors.
“We have a lot of good information flow back and forth between partners whenever necessary to address enforcement issues,” said Mackie.
The mask rule can be done one of two ways- by public health order, or by city bylaw.
London Mayor Ed Holder said either way, the city would not take a hard line on enforcement. “We’re going to take a very strong educational approach. It’s one that we have done consistently as we move through Stage 1 and Stage 2 and we anticipate that will be the case as well as we go forward.”
Many businesses have lived with COVID-19 protocols for both their staff and customers for more than four months now. In fact, at Sunripe Fresh Market on Fanshawe Park Road in London, manager Jenn Koose said staff have gotten used to laying down the law for the greater good, and enforcing a mask rule would be no different.
“People that we were just letting up instead of waiting, now they are comfortable to say, ‘No you have to back up and wait.’ I think it’s going to be the same thing with masks. They are going to say, 'If you don’t have a mask, you don’t get to come in to the store.’”
The Middlesex-London Health Unit encompasses several municipalities. So what happens from one municipality to the next?
Some worry that a hard rule on masks creates more confusion and is more trouble than it’s worth.
Middlesex County Warden Cathy Burghardt-Jesson said she would favour an across-the-board order, not by politicians, but by public health.
“You go in to London for work, but then you come out to Lucan to do your shopping. ‘I need to wear a mask at the grocery store in Lucan, but do I need to wear a mask at the grocery store in Strathroy.’ So I honestly believe if our medical officer of health mandates masks then it needs to be right across the whole region.”