Despite the current heightened measures to protect the public from the pandemic's fourth wave, including the newly introduced vaccination passports, Toronto's top doctor called for an additional three-month extension to the current face mask bylaws.
The temporary by-laws, which require residents to wear a face mask or cover inside common areas of businesses, apartments, and condominiums, were set to expire at the end of the October 1 and October 4 City Council meetings.
However, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, called to have the bylaws extended until the end of City Council's January 2022 meeting. On Friday, October 1, during a City council meeting, Dr. de Villa's request was approved.
"Right now, while the virus is still active in communities in our city, extending the COVID-19 mask bylaws is the right thing to do," said Mayor John Tory. "I want to thank the vast majority of people who continue to do the right thing and wear masks when they are out and about in public.”
The call for the extension comes on the heels of the newest Ontario Science Advisory and Modelling Consensus Tables' projections, released on September 28. According to the latest projections, the Science Table said that while new cases, hospitalizations, and ICU occupancy in the province are not increasing, there needs to be continued control over case growth.
To control cases from growing, the Science Table said there need to be continued public health measures in place, high vaccination rates in the eligible population and a flattening of growth in mobility.
According to the City, recent data shows mobility in Toronto is at the highest level since the pandemic began. Additionally, the City says the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is expected to increase as colder weather arrives and more people gather indoors.
Subsequently, Dr. de Villa recommends that the City extend the following temporary bylaws: the Mandatory Mask bylaw (541-2020 and 664- 2020) and the COVID-19 amendments to Chapter 354 Apartment Buildings.
The bylaws recommended to be extended are:
- Bylaws 541-2020 and 664-2020: extend the bylaws that require people wear masks or face coverings in enclosed areas of businesses and other organizations that are open to the public and in enclosed common areas of apartments and condominiums.
- Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 354, Apartment Buildings (s.354-3.11): extend the amendments that require landlords to provide hand washing/sanitizing in common areas, close non-essential common areas consistent with Provincial orders and increase cleaning and post Toronto Public Health signage.
Dr. de Villa is also asking to review the necessity of each bylaw monthly and report if any changes or extensions are required before or after the anticipated January 2022 meeting.
Toronto's top doctor says increased safety protocols in apartment buildings need to remain in place, and building owners and operators must:
- Provide hand hygiene stations or alcohol-based hand sanitizer in common areas like building entrances and laundry rooms;
- Ensure non-essential, enclosed common areas remain closed to be consistent with Provincial orders;
- Clean frequently-touched surfaces in all open common areas, including doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, toilet handles, counters, hand rails, touch screen surfaces, and keypads; and
- Post Toronto Public Health signage such as physical distancing signs at entrances and in elevators, as well as signage in laundry facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, evidence has shown that public health measures like requiring masks in indoor settings and maintaining physical distance have been greatly effective at reducing transmission," said Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Board of Health.
"With the ongoing risks of a fourth wave, and in order to proceed with safety and caution, the best path forward for our city is to continue to follow the advice of our Medical Officer of Health and extend our local bylaws that have helped to limit virus spread in our city.”
The bylaws have now been in effect for well over a year, and anyone caught breaking the rules could face a hefty fine upwards of $750.