Sarnia makes masks mandatory starting Friday

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If you’re headed to Sarnia, you’ll have to have a mask.

Sarnia City Council has approved a mandatory mask bylaw. People in public spaces will be required to wear a mask starting Friday.

Mayor Mike Bradley, who championed the idea a Lambton County Council, says it is a necessary step in the fight against COVID-19. A mandatory bylaw county-wide was turned down by a margin of 13-4. “I was bitterly disappointed this was not resolved at Lambton county council,” he said.

Lambton’s medical officer of health has said he would not impose a ban since there has been no community spread in Lambton for some time. Ranade has always maintained he would be open to a mandatory mask policy if the conditions required it. In that case, he said a municipal bylaw would be more effective.

“We’ve been in this for 130 days now…what has been difficult has been the sense that this is over…it’s not. It is far from over.”

Bradley says the move is necessary as more businesses open.

Only two councillors opposed the move, Councillors Margaret Bird and Terry Burrell.

Bird argued the types of masks people are wearing are not a guarantee to stop the spread of COVID-19. “If you make this mandatory…but don’t maintain physical distancing, which is the most important component of this…the number of cases will go way up. I’m convinced of that.”

Councillors, during a special teleconference meeting Monday, said they had been innundated with emails and calls on the issue, mostly in favour of the policy.

Councillor Brian White says he talked to one business owner who pleaded with him to implement a policy so he didn’t have conflict with his customers. “He wanted to simply point to a law that says thou shalt.”

White added the businessman told him he could not afford another shutdown and he begged council to do something so that he doesn’t have to close his business. “Economically, they cannot survive. They don’t want to be the ones subsidizing “our freedom of choice here.”

Starting Friday, everyone over the age of five will be required to wear a mask in businesses, places of worship, public buildings, like city hall or provincial and federal buildings including the post office, and common areas of places such as hotels or motels.

Fines for not wearing a mask, for both individuals and businesses which do not enforce the rule, will be $1,000.

The bylaw will remain in effect until the end of the year although the mayor says it can be revoked by council at any time.