Sarnia is making face masks mandatory in indoor public spaces.
In a 6-2 vote today, city council approved a new bylaw that will take effect Friday at midnight.
“Not my cup of tea, but I joined others because of my love and care for the community going forward,” said Coun. Dave Boushy, who voted in favour. “Why not wear a mask? It’s no big deal? It doesn’t hurt to wear them.”
The new rules apply to all businesses and places of worship. Owners and managers of public spaces must ensure no member of the public can enter without a mask that covers the nose, mouth and chin. Fines for non-compliance start at $1,000.
“It’s an additional tool in our tool kit to keep our community safe,” said Coun. Brian White. “We’re not talking about forcing people to wear masks in their private homes.”
Face coverings can include medical masks, bandanas or scarves, or homemade versions made of cloth, linen or other similar fabric. The bylaw expires Dec. 31, but can be revoked at any time, said Mayor Mike Bradley.
Two councillors voted no: Terry Burrell and Margaret Bird.
“I personally am in favour of people wearing a mask but I prefer it on a voluntary basis, where social distancing cannot be done,” Burrell said. “I do not support mandatory masks for many reasons.”
Coun. Bird argued the science hasn’t proven masks reduce the spread of COVID-19, and noted the dangers of breathing through an unclean, homemade mask.
“Canada is a great promoter of free speech and democracy. And unless there have been any exceptions to the rule changes to the national anthem that I’m not aware of, then we’re still glorious and free,” Bird said.
“When it comes to mask-wearing, the provincial words are still ‘strongly encouraged’ and not mandatory.”
Bradley, who for weeks has tried to get such a bylaw passed, cautioned that though the number of infections is currently low locally, the pandemic is far from over.
“This is not about citizen versus citizen. This is about Sarnia versus COVID. It’s that simple.”