A political push to revive mandatory indoor masking in London a day after it ended is garnering soft backing from the region’s top doctor, though he didn’t approve.
It is also of great concern to other politicians, including the acting mayor, who said councilors are not experts on public health policy.
The Council will hold a special committee meeting on Tuesday to discuss a proposal by Councilors Jesse Helmer, Stephen Turner and Maureen Cassidy to reintroduce and lift a mask ordinance until at least May 9 as cases, hospitalizations and deaths increase. due to COVID-19. further.
†We as a municipality and we as a municipalitywe We have a responsibility to try to do the right thing, given all the evidence we have,” Helmer said.
“Just look at the incidence of the virus in the community, the people dying from COVID-19 in our city in recent months, it’s unacceptably high. l just don’t think we can sit on our hands and do nothing if we know what happened in our community.”
Monday was the first day without provincial requirements to wear face masks in most public indoor places, a measure designed to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Doug Ford’s provincial government leaves the choice to individuals whether or not to put on a mask before entering, although companies can still set their own rules for customer access.
London initially created its own masking ordinance for public, covered locations in July 2020, like many other municipalities, but let it expire at the end of that year as provincial rules made the local requirement redundant.
†I wish it wasn’t necessary, I wish the provincial rules about masking were still in effect. At the start of the pandemic, municipalities had to act independently of the province to draw up some rules,” Helmer said.
dr. Alex Summers, the medical officer of health for London and Middlesex, said during a virtual media briefing Monday “the use of masks remains highly recommended.”
†While that masking requirement is being lifted, the health unit continues to recommend people wear masks and respect others whether they choose to wear a mask or not,” he said.
†COVID remains in our community and masks are an effective way to slow transmission, as we have learned in recent years,” he later said.
Still, Summers emphasized that COVID-19 vaccines are the most important layer of protection against the virus. When asked if he would support the council to reinstate his own bylaws, Summers was vague.
†There are considerations around the risks and benefits of a mandate that must be considered by organizations and decision-makers,” he said.
“Our recommendation remains for individuals to consider masking in indoor environments and for organizations to consider the tools in their toolbox to encourage masking relative to the risk they value in their environment.”
Pushed later, Summers said he “cannot say whether a mandate is the best course of action. That’s really something for Council to consider.”
But Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan, who replaces Mayor Ed Holder Monday, said he doesn’t want council members making public health decisions without a strong recommendation from the top doctors.
†I do not believe that councilors are public health experts and I am not convinced that we should move to public health policy making. When we first passed that mask regulation in the summer of 2020, we didn’t do it in isolation. It was a move made at the strong urging and unequivocal recommendation of the then medical officer of health,” Morgan said.
†Without a firm recommendation from the Chief Medical Officer of Health in our region, I would: significant make sure I walk that path.”
London was one of several councils to have mask ordinances at the start of the pandemic.
The Hamilton City Council, which still had a 2020 ordinance requiring masks and physical distancing in indoor public spaces, voted Monday to scrap those rules and follow the provincial direction.
Helmer said it’s up to the council to create mask rules if the province doesn’t, pointing to other countries where death rates have risen after dropping public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“I know people want it to be over, they want to go back to normal, they don’t want to wear masks anymore. But masks work, it’s not over and I think it’s necessary,” he said.
‘We’ll see what the council thinks tomorrow. I value the health officer’s advice, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.”
The ordinance proposed by Helmer, Turner and Cassidy — who chaired the health board for most of the pandemic — would not apply to schools, nurseries, courthouses or buildings open only to employees.
There are currently 21 people in hospital with COVID-19, five or fewer of whom are in intensive care and five or fewer in children’s hospitals. Another death from the virus was recorded on Saturday, a woman in her 80s, bringing the total death toll from a pandemic in London and Middlesex to 356.
While the number of cases is much less reliable now that testing is only available in very specific circumstances, 174 new COVID-19 infections were reported over the weekend and Monday.
The Council’s strategic priorities and policy committee, which includes all council members, will meet Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. to debate mask regulations before the council meeting begins at 4 p.m.