Petrolia administration recommends mandatory mask law


Survey shows residents split on the move

Petrolia administrators are recommending mandatory face masks in town, even though nearly half of the residents are opposed to the move.

Across Ontario, public health agencies and municipal governments have been issuing mandatory orders to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces including businesses. Lambton County council decided against the move in early July on the advice of the Medical Officer of Health, who said at this time it is not necessary. Last Frida Sarnia implemented its mandatory bylaw. The mayor then asked his county counterparts if they would reconsider the move. There was little support for a revote on the mandatory mask bylaw.

Instead, County Warden Bill Weber wrote a letter to the province asking the premier to implement a province wide order.

Petrolia recently surveyed its residents – 2,275 people completed the short, online survey and it shows the town is split on the issue. About 51 per cent say the town should implement a mandatory mask bylaw, 49 per cent say it should not.

But the town’s emergency management coordinator – Fire Chief Jay Arns – in a report to council says the town should move ahead with its own bylaw and provide businesses with one box of disposable face masks to help implement the bylaw.

“Staff recommend the town focus on educating people not adhering to the by-law as opposed to issuing fines straightaway, and the issuing of fines be used as a last resort. To that effect, staff have already created some educational material about proper wearing of face coverings which will be shared with the public regardless of whether council decides to issue a mandatory face covering by-law,” says Arns writes.

Dr Charles Winegard, the Medical Director at Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital and the Vice President of rural medicine for Bluewater Health agrees with the move.

“The science is behind this and most of the communities in the province are doing this, including Sarnia now,” he writes in an email to council.

“Unfortunately, people do not seem to understand that wearing a face mask is a public policy to protect others not necessarily oneself. Wearing a mask is a community duty.

“Kids will be required to wear face masks in school from Grade 4 onward and this would simply be an adjunct to that policy,” he adds.

“There is no downside to this action and it will be a great adjunct to keeping our caseloads at a low level.”

Under the proposed bylaw, children under the age of nine would be exempt, as would people with health issues and those helping people with hearing impairments. The bylaw also exempts those involved in “strenuous exercise.”

The bylaw, if passed by council Monday, would come into effect immediately and end when the province’s emergency orders are over. While the official state of emergency ended in July, the province passed powers late in that month to extend some of the orders but gives no time frame for when that will be.

Fines would be set at $1,000.

Council reviews the issue Monday night in a video conference meeting.