Sarnia council makes masks mandatory

Sarnia City Council meeting in special session to discuss making masks mandatory in all indoor public spaces. 27 July 2020. (Screenshot from City of Sarnia Zoom call)

Sarnia council is making masks mandatory in indoor public spaces.

At a special meeting Monday morning, councillors voted 6-2 in favour of a temporary bylaw that takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Councillor Brian White said business owners begged him for “consistency across the board” saying they can’t afford to shut down again.

“Honestly, if I believed that people were complying with this concept in high enough numbers, I wouldn’t be here today supporting this either,” said White. “But, the fact of the matter is, as this pandemic era grows longer, people are becoming more fatigued by social distancing.”

He believes using masks is a “positive step” and an “additional tool in our tool kit to try and keep our community safe.”

“We’re not talking about losing autonomy here, we’re not talking about forcing people to wear masks in their private homes. We’re just simply asking people, in general, when you’re out and you’re interacting with people, when you’re going to your appointments, when you’re going to the grocery store… let’s take care of each other.”

Councillors Margaret Bird and Terry Burrell voted against the bylaw.

Bird said it creates a false sense of security.

“Sarnia-Lambton medical health officer, Dr. S. Ranade, agrees with the province and says that social distancing and repeated hand washing is the safest way to go right now, as to date, he has not seen any definitive evidence that proves mask wearing stops the spread of COVID-19.”

Councillor Terry Burrell wondered why the city would mandate masks at the local level when it wasn’t at the provincial or federal level.

Mayor Mike Bradley who failed to get county council to move in a similar direction July 8, said there was a great demand from the public for legislation as the city advanced to Stage 3 of the pandemic reopening plan.

“This is not about citizen vs. citizen,” said Bradley. “This is about Sarnia vs. COVID. It’s that simple.”

Councillor Nathan Colquhoun was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Children under five, people with underlying medical conditions which inhibit the ability to wear a mask or face covering, and those unable to place or remove a mask or covering without assistance are exempt from the bylaw.

Failing to comply with the bylaw could result in a fine of up to $1,000.