MAYOR MEED WARD’S TAKE:
In making our decisions at the City and Regional levels, we will put the health and safety of our staff and residents first, and be guided by the advice of Halton Region’s MOH, the Province’s MOH, feedback from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table and other health tables and sectors, as well as community input.
City staff will also be reviewing all updated Provincial regulations and the impacts to City services. Please continue to look to the City’s and my channels for updates.
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Today (March 9), Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (MOH) Dr. Kieran Moore announced that on March 21, the Province will remove the mandatory masking requirement for most settings (including including in schools, restaurants and stores), with the exception of select settings, such as public transit, health care settings, long-term care homes and congregate care settings.
A high-level summary of Dr. Moore’s statement is at the bottom of this post.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR BURLINGTON?
The City of Burlington’s mask bylaw is set to expire automatically on June 30, 2022 or within 5 days after the Province lifts its mask mandate, unless Council votes to extend or revoke it sooner. Even after the Province lifts its mask mandate on March 21 in most settings, there are still this mask bylaw and the Regional mask bylaw that need to be addressed (more on the latter further down this post). The City is discussing its mask bylaw on March 22 and the Region is discussing its mask bylaw on March 23.
WHY WAIT UNTIL MARCH 22?
Many have voiced concerns with lifting the mask bylaw too early, many others are also wanting the mask bylaw to be lifted sooner. Burlington City Council and the City of Burlington Emergency Control Group value the extra week and a half from when the Province announced the removal of its mask mandates in most settings, to see where the health indicators are, especially after the March Break, before making a final decision.
WHAT DOES BURLINGTON’S MASK BYLAW COVER?
Burlington’s mask bylaw requires the wearing of masks or other face coverings within enclosed spaces open to the public, including:
- City Hall and City facilities open to the public;
- Burlington Transit;
- Public areas of offices, retail outlets and malls; and
- Inside common areas of apartment and condominium buildings.
WHY ISN’T THE CITY DOING ANYTHING ABOUT MASKS IN SCHOOLS?
There has been a lot of concern voiced around masking in schools. The City’s mask bylaw does not apply to schools, hospitals, or long-term care settings as they determine their own masking policies.
The Province has oversight on schools and any concerns about masking should also be directed to your local MPP, the school boards, Ministry of Education and the local Medical Officer of Health (MOH).
CAN’T SCHOOL BOARDS IMPOSE THEIR OWN MASKING POLICY?
No — as schools fall under the umbrella of the Province, concerned community members should speak with their local school boards and MPP, and the Ministry of Education. A local MOH can issue a Sect. 22 Order to mandate masking in schools.
CITY COUNCIL MEETING MARCH 22
Burlington City Council will be discussing its mask bylaw at our next regularly scheduled Council meeting on March 22. This will allow us to choose whether or not to lift our bylaw sooner than the five day built in expiry after the province makes a decision. At the same time, Council will also be discussing whether to lift the City’s physical distancing bylaw that is set to expire June 30, 2022, unless extended or lifted sooner.
Council will also be discussing whether to lift the City’s State of Emergency declaration. Burlington has been under a State of Emergency since March 21, 2020.
HALTON REGION MASK BYLAW & STATE OF EMERGENCY
The Region of Halton also has a mask bylaw covering all four municipalities. It is set to expire April 30, 2022, unless extended or revoked sooner. As well, the Region is under a State of Emergency.
Halton Regional Council’s next meeting is March 23, and they will be discussing whether or not to lift the mask bylaw and the State of Emergency. All members of Burlington City Council sit on Regional Council.
You can also register to speak at Regional Council here: https://www.halton.ca/The-Region/Regional-Council-and-Committees/Guide-for-Delegates-to-Regional-Council
SUMMARY OF DR. MOORE’S STATEMENT:
- Masks will still be required on public transit on March 21 until April 27
- The Province will maintain a “robust surveillance strategy.”
- To determine if masking would need to be reinstated the Province will use testing data, their surveillance information as well as the burden on the hospital system
- He doesn’t expect any significant rebounds once the masking mandate has been lifted.
- A robust education strategy about when to wear a mask is required. He said this would be done by local public health units. “We must remain considerate and kind to those who chose to wear a mask.”
- Dr. Moore was asked if he would continue to wear a mask in public. He said he won’t when he was outdoors, but that he would in a shopping mall or busy box store.
- He encouraged people to conduct their own individual risk assessment
- “We are moving from a mandate on masking to a choice.”
- “The risk is now less. Can’t mandate masking forever. People have the right now not to wear a mask in public. We need to learn to live with this virus.”