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Oct. 29, 2020 | Thursday
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Views on mandatory masks: From '100% yes' to 'personal choice'
Mask debate.

Before Niagara-on-the-Lake town council passed a mandatory mask bylaw last week, Lord Mayor Betty Disero sent out an email asking for opinions on whether face masks should be mandatory. Here are some of the responses by Niagara-on-the-Lake residents and business people.

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“Agreed thanks, should be masks or face shields.” – Andrea Kaiser

“YES 100% supportive! The shops need a tool to enforce the use of masks inside their stores but can’t be liable, the responsibility should be put on patrons." – NOTL Chamber of Commerce president Eduardo Lafforgue

“You have the full support of both myself and my mum (who is over 70 and therefore high‐risk) on this bylaw. Make the bylaw valid for a few months, and then review and extend if necessary (and sadly, I believe it will be necessary)." –  Jennifer and Carol Hudd

“I am supportive of this measure, Lord Mayor.” – Del Rollo, vice-president of industry and government relations, Arterra Wines Canada

“YES! 100% supportive of this.” – Tim Jennings, executive director, Shaw Festival

“I think it is imperative, during this unprecedented time, that we practise all precautionary measures possible to protect ourselves, and those around us in the community. Mask wearing is easily executed and has been proven to be greatly effective in reducing the risk of contracting COVID. It seems like a no-brainer to me ... if we cannot practise social distancing in certain NOTL locations, then mask wearing should be mandatory. I am puzzled that this is even an issue? Especially in a town that is overrun by tourists day in & day out. Safety first." – Chautauqua resident Tara Rosling

“Yes … full support.” – Richard Wall, president, Virgil Business Association

“I’d like to express my support for mandatory masks. I believe they offer a common sense solution for both businesses and residents. It would be easier to have widespread mask use implemented than to close roads and divert parking in high traffic areas and lose parking revenue. I believe it will also substantially alleviate resident fears from out-of-town tourism. I believe waiting for a regional health organization (or provincial or federal) to mandate this is inefficient, as there is already sufficient evidence to support the use of masks as a deterrent to the spread of the disease. Regarding enforcement concerns, the vast majority of people will follow the rules. If they don't wear a mask, a mandatory order gives businesses the authority they need to refuse service. Losing a few unreasonable customers more than outweighs the death of a person." – NOTL resident Lyndsay Gazzard

“My heart was lightened when I realized there was still time to try and persuade all of you to not make masks mandatory. (Regional chair Jim) Bradley, the deciding vote, I am truly taken aback by your sense of responsibility and asking for more time to review. Your integrity is inspired! You have shown true strength, true leadership and have given hope! ... At this stage the mask is simply a symbol of control and has nothing to do with health and safety. On the gold standard of masks, the N95, it clearly states that it does not protect from viruses. There are a many videos on the web that show the health dangers, of breathing back in our own waste. I can’t image being a child in all of this insanity! The mental trauma of being forced to wear a mask, distanced from your loving grandparents and friends, thinking the entire world is covered with a deadly virus!! These are the darkest times I have ever seen. The cases of anxiety must by skyrocketing! Please leave the mask as a choice!” – NOTL resident Pete Swanson

“I can't appreciate the delay applied to the controversy surrounding the wearing of masks when the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends the wearing of non-surgical masks or face coverings in public places where physical distancing isn't possible to do consistently. We need to do this for everyones safety. NOTL isn't unique, "virus exempt" or "a disease-free zone." Anything but, in fact we are more vulnerable with the increasing number of tourists and people flocking here and the age of our general population. But this you know. The question is, what are the plans to make sure we remain safe? We live here. So this is about us. Where do we go for treatment and chemo and radiation and health care appointments when our district or regional centres become further challenged and unavailable to the locals? Why not make masks mandatory? Is it fear of alienating or inconveniencing visitors because some want their dollars? COVID isn't an inconvenience, it's a death sentence to some or a permanent reminder that a door "which could have been shut" wasn't after the fact. Mandatory masks have been implemented in Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and Guelph. A Montreal suburb plus Wellington, Dufferin and Durham. Let's do the same. To not do the same implies that these areas are otherwise wrong. Or are their leaders more insightful and proactive? You know where our visitors are coming from. Shedding what is mandatory at home while here. For those who state they can't wear face coverings, let them carry a notarized document. One would suggest that for those who have significant breathing issues the last place they should be "is out uncovered" in today's environment. Make masks mandatory. Keep your constituents safe.” – Sandra Johnston, Old Town resident

“Toronto has implemented masks, York Region is now implementing masks. We know that a lot of people from these towns are coming to Niagara-on-the-Lake! We know a lot of them say it’s partly because they don’t have to wear masks!! They don’t want to be told what to do. Bad news. We need to implement masks. The second wave is most certain. Please stay ahead of this deadly curve. Help keep us safe.” – Ruth Fotheringham and Steve Sobel

“The CDC could not be more supportive of using face masks. We need to get this done. But CDC director Robert Redfield's comments Tuesday were perhaps his strongest yet: "I think we're being very clear now. Now's the time to wear a mask.” – Mike Henry

“I am writing to encourage the town to make face masks mandatory in indoor spaces. I am extremely disappointed in the take-up of voluntary mask usage by both locals and visitors to Niagara-on-the-Lake. I don’t buy the argument that people have the right not to wear a mask. That makes as much sense as having a right not to wear car seat belts. Also, no one has the right to infect others. That’s the primary purpose of a mask. I also don’t buy the argument that our region's COVID-19 cases my be lower than, for example, Toronto. Many of our visitors don’t come from the region. I look forward to seeing some positive action. We are in the midst of a pandemic.” – Paul Weiss

“I am a resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake and have lived here about 16 years. I love this town and want to support the local businesses. I also value the tourists that come visit our lovely town, and enjoy the vitality they bring. I am, however, very concerned about COVID and have recently hesitated to go into town for groceries etc. due to the lack of masks not only by residents and tourists but also some of the store workers who are stocking shelves. I value their contribution and work during this difficult time but am concerned about transmission of this virus. I hope that you can gain support for mandatory mask wearing in town as I feel this will make it easier for residents like me to continue to support local businesses instead of driving into St. Catharines to shop.” – Trish Robertson

“We are writing because we are hopeful all of you will consider making masks mandatory, similar to what St. Catharines did. My spouse and I are residents of St. Davids. As we both have compromised health, we strongly believe in taking all precautionary measures to protect ourselves against contracting COVID-19. Since our government health experts say mask wearing lowers the risk and stops the spread, we feel this measure needs to be taken. We encourage you to pass this city ordinances during this time to protect our citizens and reduce the stress on our Niagara health care system. This measure will allow us to continue our support for local NOTL businesses. Unfortunately, the Niagara Falls council is not supporting mandatory mask wearing, therefore, we will now take our business to St. Catharines, where this measure is being taken.” – David and Jane Rusch, St. Davids

“I am extremely hopeful that council will vote on Thursday evening to make masks mandatory in interior spaces in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I sincerely believe that it is in all our best interests to err on the side of caution, especially in light of a possible second wave. We should be proud of our success in keeping the rate of infection down, in our area, due to the public’s positive response to government measures to make this mandatory.” – Marie and Michel Lapointe

"I am writing to support your proposed bylaw making face masks mandatory in NOTL. Over the course of this pandemic I have been astounded by the number of people who refuse to co-operate with the various emergency measures that have been put in place to try and minimize the risk of virus transmission. I continue to walk in businesses in town and observe people failing to social distance and refusing to wear masks. Some of these people are also employees in these businesses. The urgency to act decisively is further compounded by the numerous tourists that have started to arrive again, many of whom are under 30 and think they are invincible. Therefore, the town must act now to try and protect its vulnerable population. Perhaps, it's also time to remind everyone of prior social hygiene practices such as sneezing into your elbow or covering your mouth with a Kleenex when you had a cold. How often have we heard, sorry, I have a cold don’t come any closer? No one was offended by these practices because it was common sense not to pass your cold or flu to others. Wearing a mask is merely an extension of this old practice of protecting others only now it's critical because this virus kills. The inconsistent messaging from public health agencies and all levels of government regarding public safety measures, I think, is partly to blame for this current state of affairs. Thankfully, provinces and municipalities have now begun to speak with one voice on the necessity of masks. The town should add its voice too. However,  a mask bylaw is only a first step. All levels of government must continue to educate the public not only about COVID‐19 but also about the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a free and democratic society. Common misconceptions persist about “my individual rights.” As we are all aware in a democratic country all of us agree to limit some of our individual rights in the interest of the common good. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us to explain and if necessary to challenge fallacious arguments used as a defence for non compliance.” – Toni Burzotta

“There are valid arguments on both sides of this debate. Ultimately, this boils down to a value judgment: how much do we as a society want to hedge against the risk of COVID-19 that we are willing to deny a small amount of personal freedom and risk potential harms, relying only on relatively weak research to justify this. Our position is that these sorts of value judgments are best made by society as a whole through its elected leaders. It is clear that the public is currently split with passionate advocates on both sides of the debate — all the more reason that elected leaders should publicly debate and decide this.”  – Dr. Mustafa Hirji, acting medical officer of health for Niagara Region

 

“While Niagara Region contemplates a mask bylaw, I hope NOTL Council will proceed with its own vote to make masks mandatory in indoor spaces. The science is clear. Masks work. Why wait until it’s a crisis, as other jurisdictions have done? Please be proactive to protect the health of NOTLers.” – Jan Goulding

“I am emailing you today as a wife and mother of three young children here in NOTL. I had never intending on "joining" the mask debate, however, I do want my voice to be heard. I strongly feel that IF masks do truly provide the protection required to fight off this virus, then the province would have made them mandatory from the beginning of COVID. This would have been a discussion back in March. Our town is supported by tourism and we do require visitors from all over to come to our area and into the stores we as locals also support. I think we have all gotten off track here with feeling that the masks will "protect" us when we should be requiring everyone to wash their hands before entering a store. It is proven that handwashing and proper social distancing are the two top ways to protect ourselves from this virus. If masks are made mandatory by the majority of council, I strongly feel that we should be adding handwashing to the bylaw as well.”  – Suzanne Dodd

“’I’m exempt from wearing a mask. No proof needed. Asking for a proof of exemption is against the law. Problem solved. Unless your profession is requiring you to wear a mask, if you still insist in wearing one, you are doing so voluntarily.” – Jonathan Nzouankeu

“I am a proud citizen of Niagara-on-the-Lake and was even more proud when I read that you seemed to want to vote against making facial masks mandatory. I understand this must be a difficult decision to make as we need to take the health and safety of everyone to heart. According to the W.H.O.: “If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19.” Although I could write solely on case studies that challenge the questionable effectiveness of wearing a mask, I would like to bring to your attention a much more important and often glossed-over aspect to making the mask mandatory and that is stress ... The distress that the pandemic is creating is real and damaging. What’s wrong with keeping it a choice?” — NOTL resident Anaïs Boies.

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