Mask up Petrolia; mandatory mask bylaw goes into effect Friday

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People in Petrolia will have to wear a mask in public spaces including businesses starting Friday.

Petrolia Council passed a bylaw making masks mandatory for everyone over the age of nine. Medical exemptions will be allowed.

The bylaw includes a fine of up to $1,000 for those who don’t comply, however the town plans to use education before issuing charges.

Only Councillor Ross O’Hara was opposed to the idea. He wears his mask constantly, but the town should not be putting a bylaw in place that they have no intention of enforcing.

He says the town should invest in public education to convince people to wear a mask.

“If we’re not going to enforce it…money could be better spent on education,” says O’Hara. “We should put signs on every corner…there are better ways that we can do this, especially when we’re not going to enforce the bylaw. Bylaws that are not enforced should not be there.”

O’Hara added forcing people to wear masks reinforces the idea that Canadians are over regulated.

Dr. Charles Winegard spoke to council before the debate. He’s the vice president of rural medicine at Bluewater Health and part of the Central Lambton Family Health Team. Winegard doesn’t know of any physician in Lambton who doesn’t support the use of masks. And he says it is best to mandate the use of them. “There is 82 per cent compliance when mandated, which is much different when it was just a suggestion.”

Mayor Brad Loosley was disappointed the province didn’t make a blanket order across the province. The mayor says local doctors are in favour of the move. “I feel theses are the experts and they all recommend masks…if this bylaw helps one individual, it is worth it. And I hope it is temporary.”

Councillor Grant Purdy asked the bylaw be reviewed in three months. He was in favour of a mandatory bylaw saying it would be “catastrophic” if there were a second wave and worried some of the businesses now just hanging on wouldn’t survive it.

He also likened the mandatory order to no smoking bylaws and seat belt use.

Councillor Wade Deighton says he went back and forth on the issue, and wished people would mask up voluntarily. “People should put on a mask in order to protect their neighbours…but we need to really sort of do something here.”

Petrolia becomes the second Lambton community to enact a mandatory mask bylaw. Sarnia enacted a bylaw last Friday. Lambton County councillors turned the idea down in July saying it should be up to individual municipalities. Plympton-Wyoming will look at the issue Wednesday.

Chatham-Kent also passed a mandatory mask bylaw Monday night. It also goes into effect Friday.