Province mandates masks across the province; says interact closely just with people in your house

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Province reports 732 new COVID-19 cases Friday

Mandatory masks are now required indoors in seven more Lambton County municipalities.

And people across the province are being asked to interact closely only with those you live with.

Mask wearing indoors will be mandatory province-wide starting tomorrow, Premier Doug Ford announced today as the number of daily cases in Ontario climbed to 732 – a new high since the pandemic began.

“Earlier this week we received a real wake-up call,” Ford says . “If we don’t act now to halt these trends, we could see 1,000 new cases a day by mid-October.”

The new mandatory mask rule will affect several municipalities in Lambton County, which was the only county in Ontario that had not mandated their use indoors. St. Clair Township, Brooke-Alvinston, Enniskillen, Plympton-Wyoming, Dawn-Euphemia, Warwick and Oil Springs encouraged their use but were not mandating them into law. 

Petrolia, Sarnia, Point Edward and Lambton Shores passed mandatory masking bylaws.

Lambton County Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sudit Ranade encourages the use of masks indoors but would not call for them to be mandatory. Lambton County Council voted down two proposals this summer by Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley to make masks required county wide.  

St. Clair Township council narrowly voted against a mask bylaw 4-3 in August. Mayor Steve Arnold was the deciding vote. He was hesitant of Friday’s decision that will bring masks to the township.

“The concern I have is people that are not looking after their masks properly. Is that because people don’t know how to put a mask on, or when, or why? There’s a false sense of security when people have masks on that they can get in people’s faces and get close to them,” says Arnold.

Arnold says most businesses in the township have their own mandatory mask rule anyway, and the majority of people are already wearing them indoors. He adds that outside of Sarnia there are not many buildings where people gather in large numbers, and that Lambton County has had few cases overall – including no deaths or hospitalizations since June.  

Arnold also says that he prefers to take Ranade’s advice on the matter. “If Dr. Ranade told us that he recommended masks and to make it mandatory, we would have done it long ago. We’ve always followed his lead because he is the medical officer of health, and he understands the way viruses and bodies work that we don’t,” says Arnold.

“For me to try and overrule him, I don’t know how I could do that,” he says. 

The move by the Ford government comes following a record 732 new COVID-19 cases announced on Friday. Six other regions in the province saw double digit numbers of new cases. 

Lambton County recorded one new case of COVID on Friday to bring the active total to three. On Oct. 1 five cases were confirmed to have recently arrived in the Sarnia Harbour through a transport ship crew, but will not count toward Lambton’s total as those affected all live outside the county. The crew members are currently isolating in a Point Edward hotel. 

The provincial testing backlog also ballooned to its highest total yet as more than 90,000 people await their test results. This is prompting a change to how testing is done. Oct. 4 will mark the last day of walk-in tests. After that anyone seeking a COVID test will have to make an appointment at their center. 

On Friday the province also announced a pause on the “social bubble”, which allowed for some households to interact as long as the total number of people involved remained 10 or less. The province is now asking people to interact closely only with people inside their household, and to remain at least two meters apart from everyone else.