City of Toronto makes masks or face coverings mandatory in enclosed public spaces

To protect the health and safety of our communities, today, Toronto City Council voted unanimously in favour of requiring masks or face coverings in all enclosed public places as of July 7 to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The measure heeds advice from the Medical Officer of Health, who recommended City Council use its authority to legislate for the protection of the health, safety and well-being of persons in Toronto to enact a temporary bylaw requiring businesses and facilities to have a policy that ensures masks or face coverings are worn by the public in the enclosed spaces under their control to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

With the help of all residents, Toronto has made significant progress in the fight against COVID-19. We are now in Stage 2 of the Province of Ontario’s reopening framework, with many businesses and community settings reopening and many activities able to resume with COVID-19 precautions. While the number of new COVID-19 cases in Toronto continues to trend downward, we continue to see new cases and learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions.

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests the use of masks and face coverings is an inexpensive, acceptable, and non-invasive measure to help control the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is spread through contact with the respiratory droplets produced by someone who is infected when they cough, sneeze, or even when they laugh or speak, including by individuals who may not have symptoms – known as being asymptomatic. Evidence suggests wearing a mask reduces the likelihood of droplets infecting those around an individual.

The new bylaw will require businesses to adopt a policy to ensure masks or face coverings are worn in indoor public spaces under their control. The new bylaw will apply to all indoor spaces that are openly accessible to the public, including:

  • retail stores
  • convenience stores
  • malls, shopping plazas
  • grocery stores, bakeries, farmer’s markets (enclosed areas)
  • restaurants, bars (when permitted to open for indoor service)
  • indoor recreational facilities, gyms, swimming pools (when permitted to open)
  • libraries
  • community centres
  • community service agencies
  • personal service settings
  • churches, mosque, synagogue, temples and faith settings
  • art galleries, museums, aquariums, zoos
  • banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, stadiums, and other event spaces
  • real estate facilities such as open house, presentation centres
  • common areas in hotels, motels and short-term rentals (e.g. lobbies, elevators, meeting rooms)
  • entertainment facilities including concert venues, theatres, cinemas, casinos
  • business offices open to the public

The bylaw will include exemptions for those who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, children under the age of two, and other reasonable accommodations. The bylaw will also permit the temporary removal of a mask or face covering when receiving services, having a meal, or engaging in athletic or fitness activity. The bylaw will not apply to apartment buildings and condominiums, child care facilities and schools, and areas that are not enclosed (i.e. restaurant patios).

This new bylaw will expire at 12:01 a.m. on the first day after the completion of the first Council meeting following summer recess (currently scheduled for September 30 and October 1, 2020), unless extended by Council. The Medical Officer of Health will review the recommendations regarding masks and face coverings on a monthly basis and report if any changes are required before September 30. The full Council decision is available online: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2020.CC22.3.

City of Toronto and Toronto Public Health staff are in the process of creating updated signage and guidelines to support businesses. Initial enforcement of the bylaw will focus on education and otherwise be complaint-based. Additional information for businesses and facility operators will be available on https://www.toronto.ca/facemasks/ in the coming days, prior to the bylaw coming into effect.

Prior to today’s Council decision, the TTC Board had voted to make masks or face coverings on TTC vehicles and premises as of July 2. Mask or face coverings are already mandatory on the City ferry to Toronto Island Park, as well as in certain business settings, like salons and tattoo parlours, as prescribed by orders under the provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

Face masks and coverings do not replace the need to keep a distance of two metres or six feet from others, wash hands often, and stay home when sick. A fact sheet on how to properly and safely wear and care for a non-medical mask is available on toronto.ca at https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/97f8-COVID-19-Guidance-for-Use-of-Face-Masks-and-Coverings-by-Public.pdf.

The City’s website is updated daily with the latest health advice and information about City services, social supports and economic recovery measures. Check https://www.toronto.ca/covid-19/ for answers to common questions before contacting the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 Hotline or 311.

Quotes:

“We have made so much progress in the fight against COVID-19 and are in the midst of reopening our city and safely restarting our economy. This bylaw makes sense from a health perspective and it makes sense from a business perspective. I know we all want to keep doing everything we can to keep this virus from spreading and to avoid a resurgence of cases like we are seeing elsewhere. Wearing masks or face coverings keeps you from unknowingly spreading COVID-19 and keeps the people around you from spreading it to you. It is about respecting and protecting each other. I really believe that the vast majority of people want to protect their own health and the health of others and that they will do the right thing and wear a face covering.”

– Mayor John Tory

“I’m encouraged by today’s Council’s decision to support the use of masks or face coverings by the public in all indoor public spaces. There is growing evidence which shows that steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19, like physical distancing and frequent handwashing, may be enhanced by greater public use of masks or face coverings. This is especially the case in enclosed spaces where it is more difficult to maintain physical distance from others. The action of wearing a mask may also act as a visual cue to remind everyone that we are still living through the COVID-19 pandemic, that there is still risk of virus spread, and that we need to be careful as we move forward, living with COVID-19.”

– Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health

“In Toronto, we look out for one another. That means doing everything we can to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. Evidence shows that wearing a mask indoors can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. It’s a reasonable action to take to save lives. I am happy with today’s Council decision and thankful for the leadership from our Medical Officer of Health. We all have a part to play in protecting our community and fighting COVID-19, and for most of us, that begins with wearing a mask.”

– Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Board of Health

“I am encouraged by the progress we are making in our recovery efforts. Today’s decision ensures that we protect people while helping our businesses recover and our economy to resume its growth. I hope people will recognize the importance of this public health measure to our progress through Stage 2 and beyond, and wear masks as much as possible when they go out.”

– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Ward 21 Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic Development and Culture Committee