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WARMINGTON: Don't look now but mask mandates are coming back to at least one Ontario city

Toronto Sun logo Toronto Sun 2022-11-23 Joe Warmington
A face mask. © Provided by Toronto Sun A face mask.
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People wondering if mask mandates will return will note that one major Ontario city is about to implement mandatory face coverings for city workers starting next week.  

Trying to protect staff and the public, Bu rlington is the first large Ontario city re-instating mask mandates. Starting Monday, city employees must wear a mask while at work.

“We have a responsibility for the health and safety of the staff that work at the city to deliver our community services,” said Mayor Marianne Meed Ward Wednesday. “City staff will be required to wear a mask while indoors in city workplaces.”  

Will this be a one off? Or could it spread to other municipalities as faster as viruses do?  

So far, the city of Toronto says count them out.

“People are free to choose to wear a mask when at work and are supported in that decision,” said Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross. “The city, however, is not mandating general mask use in its workplace.”

The Burlington measure will take effect Nov. 28 th and run for at least six weeks, until Jan. 8, 2023.  

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“The city took these steps because of a perfect storm of prolonged challenges that significantly impacting our workforce and ability to deliver services to the community,” said the mayor. “Challenges include respiratory viruses circulating in the community, City staff are stretched thin and this is not sustainable.”  

“The decision was made by our Burlington Leadership Team to address increased absence due to illness and to provide a safer workplace,” the mayor told the Toronto Sun. “The requirement for masking indoors only applies to city staff, not the public.”  

That said, the mayor highlighted that Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, recommends people wear masks in public places, even though he and most influential people of Toronto chose not to while attending a party.

It seemed like the mask edict issue was dead on arrival after Moore’s decision to not follow his own suggestion. Then along came word from Burlington staffers that they were going to be forced to wear them again.

While the new rule does not apply to the public in libraries or arenas, the mayor reminds “m asks are strongly recommended indoors for the public in city facilities” and “we continue to deliver city services for our community and we appreciate our residents kindness to each other, and to our staff, as we all continue to navigate through this.”

Kindness is not always evident when it comes to debates over mask or vaccine mandates. In fact at the  Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) meeting Tuesday night Ottawa Police removed two angry parents who were shouting down the motion presented by trustee Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth who is an adamant proponent of bringing back the masks.  

She has been a lightning rod on topic, as illustrated in a testy argument on CFRA radio in which in trying to have a civil discussion on the pros and cons of masking, popular host Bill Carroll decided to end the interview.  

It’s a hot-button issue with people getting pretty heated about it.

Debate is positive but people on all sides need to remember to respect each other.

In my view, masking and vaccines should be personal decisions and there should never be mandates. But any discussions should never involve calling in the police, threats on elected officials, insults, profanity or firing people or freezing bank accounts.  

Meanwhile in Burlington, Mayor Meed Ward explains “o ur healthcare system is stretched to the breaking point” and masks could help reduce this crisis.  

It will be interesting to see if any other mayors agree with her?

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