Local medical officer of health exploring mandatory mask legislation as GTA mayors push for temporary law

"It's actively under review"

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s (SMDHU) Medical Officer of Health is looking into making face masks mandatory in the region as other health units push for the same.

“I can say that it’s actively under review right now,” said Dr. Charles Gardner during his Tuesday afternoon COVID-19 update. “I’m going to be continuing discussion with municipal leaders here in Simcoe Muskoka about this question of requiring this for people when they’re going out in the community.”

“I’ve had some municipal politicians ask me as well about whether or not they should be putting in place a bylaw to this end, or whether or not I’d be issuing an order,” he added.

Gardner says there are several ways of enacting such a rule. “You can take an approach with a bylaw, that the municipality puts in place temporary bylaw, or you can take the approach that a medical officer of health issues an order,” said Gardner, adding the province could also issue an order to make masks mandatory.

“We’ve seen some local municipalities or local medical officers of health that have now gone in this direction,” said Gardner. “We know that Toronto Public Health has recommended to the Board of Health for Toronto and Toronto City Council that a bylaw be struck.”

On Tuesday morning, Toronto Mayor John Tory was joined by mayors of surrounding suburbs, announcing steps are being taken to make face masks mandatory. This would affect some 4.3 million people in Toronto and Peel Region. Tory added his city’s numbers are declining but using masks would help to avoid a crisis like that seen in the United States.

Dr. Gardner pointed out health officials in Kingston have already made masks mandatory in all indoor public settings but adds it was a step taken to control an outbreak. “It was a response to a large outbreak associated with a personal service setting, a nail salon, with a large number of people exposed.”