A debate about implementing a mandatory mask by-law in Chatham-Kent is expected to take place on Monday evening, August 10, 2020.
Although it is not included on the Council agenda, which can be seen here, a petition calling for the masking by-law to be enacted is a part of Council’s communication package for their scheduled regular/planning meeting.
“There is an abundance of evidence proving the effectiveness of masking and using face coverings in public places,” wrote Tera Fox, a Chatham-Kent resident and former nurse, who created the “Mandatory Masking for Chatham-Kent” petition on Change.org.
“Throughout Ontario, the vast majority of communities are now under mandatory masking measures and we feel that Chatham-Kent would do nothing but benefit from such measures in our community as well.”
On the petition page Fox said they are asking for mandatory masking in public places “where goods and services are sold” to come into effect immediately.
“We have worked hard and sacrificed much as a community in order to keep our COVID-19 numbers low and feel it would be a disservice to Chatham-Kent to be in a position where we need to move back a phase, have more closures, more restrictions and risk outbreaks when mandatory masking has not even been explored in our community as a viable option as of yet, while the majority of Ontario is already on board,” Fox wrote.
As of Saturday afternoon, August 8, 2020, over 2,600 people had signed the petition.
Meanwhile, Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, has publicly stated on multiple occasions he would not be recommending a masking by-law for the community.
In the ‘frequently asked questions’ portion of their website, CK Public Health states “wearing a mask cannot replace the need for physical distancing and proper, frequent handwashing.
“Medical masks (surgical, medical procedure masks and respirators like N95 masks) must be kept for health care workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients. Wearing a non-medical mask (i.e. a homemade cloth mask) in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it,” CK Public Health officials say, adding wearing a cloth mask is an additional measure you can take to protect others around you if:
– You are unable to stay two-metres away from others (i.e. on public transit or in a service setting),
– You have symptoms of the virus and need to seek medical care, or you have been instructed to wear a mask by a healthcare professional.
“Remember, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, fever, difficulty breathing), or have an existing chronic health issue or weakened immune system, you should not be out in public and should be self-isolating at home,” CK Public Health officials added on their website.
CK Public Health has also published the following video about wearing masks:
A few Chatham-Kent Councillors have taken to social media about the issue as well.
West Kent Councillor Melissa Harrigan mentioned the importance of being kind throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in a recent tweet, which included the hashtag #MaskUp.
@ChathamVoice a genuine thank you for publishing my quote on the #ChathamKent mask discussion coming on Monday: “I think it is most important that kindness remains a priority during these unprecedented times.” #Covid #kindness #MaskUp
— Melissa Harrigan (@MsHarrigan) August 7, 2020
South Kent Councillor Trevor Thompson called the mask issue “an incredibly awkward and frustrating time” for himself and the majority of Council.
“We have an expert, a microbiologist no less, who has upset hundreds of people by closing pools, arenas, libraries and more,” Thompson wrote on Facebook last week.
“Daily I get complaints that we’re moving too slow to reopen these facilities. I stand by his decision, as he is the expert. He’s also upset people by not mandating masks. So now I’m caught in a catch 22. Do I pick and choose the advice I like from Dr. Colby? Do I put the opinion of residents above his expert training? Expert advice really isn’t a pick and choose what suits me proposition.”
Thompson added: “Normally I would say no. Wouldn’t want a council to walk back smoking bylaws for instance. In this case Dr. Colby is one of a handful of dissenting voices on masks. That doesn’t make him wrong of course. Consensus can be a dangerous thing. At this point he’s really just taking the position the province and feds have. Both of which could mandate masks. So where does this leave councillors? Break with the Board of Health and Dr. Colby and it’s a political decision. I wouldn’t do that with any other issue. Stand beside Dr. Colby and the board is the other option. For now that is what I have decided to do.”
Wallaceburg Councillor Aaron Hall said on social media that Council has heard a lot of feedback from the community on the issue.
“Many in support of implementing the bylaw and many opposed,” Hall tweeted.
“I’m going to keep an open mind leading up to Monday, before and during our debate. I think it’s important to consider all of the feedback we receive, to weigh all of the information in front of us and vote for what we feel is best for our community.”
Hall also shared some details on “how the process works” for Monday, considering the item is not on the agenda:
Monday’s meeting begins at 6 p.m.
The live stream from YourTV can be viewed, here.