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Aug. 11, 2020 | Tuesday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter: Act now to make masks mandatory

Dear editor:

Lake Report reader Samuel Young's letter ("Evidence shows masks effective, so please, let’s all start wearing them," July 3) is dead on regarding the urgency of wearing masks during this pandemic. But then we hear that Niagara regional councillors are split on enacting a mandatory mask bylaw for the Niagara Region? Indeed, this poses the question: What is the region's priority? And, with no mask bylaw yet in Niagara-on-the-Lake, what is the town's priority?

Canada, and Niagara-on the Lake in particular, is fortunate in COVID-19 numbers only because our politicians at all levels took the situation seriously and acted decisively, as well as early. This is hardly the time for any level of government to relax; COVID-19 is still very much out there and now astounding medical experts with its high rate of transference.

The science cannot be disputed regarding the effectiveness of wearing masks. Medical experts agree masks greatly reduce the lethal potential of silent spreaders killing others. And, yes, those who are asymptomatic and are refusing to wear masks, aren't just spreading harmless cold bugs, they are killing a percentage of their victims. Or, rendering them serious, life-altering health issues. 

So, with no mask bylaw in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and seeming reluctance at the regional level to enact a mandatory mask bylaw, what factors are involved here? 

Likely the councillors are listening to business interests wanting to discourage anything negatively affecting profits, including forcing locals and tourists to wear masks. Certainly reasonable in normal times, however, unreasonable and even unconscionable in pandemic times.

A mask doesn't prevent opening. A mask doesn't prevent operations. A mask doesn't prevent people from making a living at work. And a mask keeps customers and staff safe. Unfortunately, one person wearing a mask only protects other people. Hence, for everyone to be protected legislation is required.

Those with solid business acumen will understand the advantages of enhanced safety protocols now delivering long-term business operations, versus the pitfalls of relaxed vigilance for the sake of short-term gain.

Smart business people will understand that applying political pressure to local authorities to prevent a mask bylaw is not in their long-term interests. We can't pretend everything is normal (unless your name is Donald Trump) because everything is not normal. 

Another concern that has been voiced is the capability of enforcing such a bylaw. I dare anyone to crunch the numbers on hiring more enforcement officers (who may even pay a portion of their own salaries through fines) versus the ramifications of spending tens of thousands of dollars on seriously ill COVID-19 patients, the economic consequences of a renewed shutdown, and, most importantly, the inevitable loss of lives. Granted the costs may come out of different pots, however, the pain will be spread across all citizens and be felt at all levels of government.

Consider, we are all pandemic weary. And seeing the COVID-19 cases to the south is enough to send a Disney character scrambling to the medicine cabinet for the Prozac. However, the reasons for their chaos is not a secret. They opened businesses too early, their people won't wear masks or follow other safety protocols, and too many ascribe to the "John Wayne" syndrome that only sissies take precautions. 

Let's not follow suit. If we adopt a mandatory mask bylaw for locals and tourists alike at the municipal and regional level, we will eventually bring this virus under control and return to a semblance of normalcy. 

Failing to enact the mask by-law is a clear signal that our politicians are even more pandemic weary then we are and are failing to make the safety of citizens a priority. As for business interests, if they feel they have paid a steep price (and they have), trying to circumvent a necessary safety protocol at this time simply does not make good business sense. 

J. Richard Wright