Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Amendments to Chatham-Kent’s mask by-law being considered

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is proposing some amendments to the recently approved mask by-law, which includes requirements for physical distancing and the use of hand sanitizer.

As directed by Council at their August 10 electronic meeting, administration is bringing forward recommendations at the upcoming electronic meeting being held on Monday, September 14, 2020.

“While there is a growing body of scientific evidence supporting the use of masks as assisting in reducing the spread of COVID-19, it is important to maintain the key public health message that frequent hand sanitization and physical distancing are the most important tools for reducing the spread of COVID-19,” a staff report said, which was prepared by Dave Taylor, manager of legal services and Dr. April Rietdyk, general manager of community human services.

“As a result, administration is recommending some amendments to the mask by-law to require, reinforce, and emphasize these public health initiatives as well.”

Some of the changes, include:

Citing “issues with compliance by transit users”, staff is also recommending to add the requirement for masking on CKTransit, with the hope of making “this obligation more clear” to the public and provide better enforcement options if users do not comply.

Administration has also prepared an amendment to the mask by-law, which allows for the temporary removal of a mask during a religious ritual, when the removal of the mask is required.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, addressed the proposed changes in the report.

“I don’t think it’s an enhanced protocol,” Dr. Colby said.

“When the mask by-law was being considered, I made a request that hand sanitizer be standardized to be available in public and retail venues across the Municipality. Mostly it is now.”

Dr. Colby added: “The other is a unique situation where we’re going to make physical distancing mandatory in public retail environments… tough to enforce, but we know that is the most effective measure that there is. If we’re going to mandate other types of behaviours, we might as well mandate the one that is the most effective in preventing the transmission of this.”

As previously reported, Dr. Colby said it would be “impossible” to measure the early effectiveness of the mask by-law. Read our coverage, here.

During the same press conference, Don Shropshire, the Chief Administrative Officer in Chatham-Kent, said the public will have the option to submit deputations on the mask by-law report.

“Anytime there is an item listed on our agenda, any member of the public has the opportunity to express their views to Council and that would include a petition,” Shropshire said.

Overall, staff says since the implementation of the mask by-law back in August, the community has responded positively.

“We have had very few complaints of businesses not posting the required signage, and only a few complaints of citizens refusing to wear masks contrary to the by-law, where there was no applicable exemption,” a staff report indicates.

If Council approves the changes, the amendments will be effective on Friday, September 18, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., staff said in a report.

“This short delay in the implementation of the amendments is included to provide citizens and businesses with time to prepare for these changes,” staff said in a report.

The full report can be viewed, here.

Monday’s Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. and will be LIVE streamed, here.

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