As Timmins council considers whether to make wearing face masks mandatory in public spaces, Mushkegowuk Council’s Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon says he hopes the city will make a “wise decision.”
“Wearing a mask in this pandemic is not a political statement,” he said. “It’s something that we should be thinking about for our loved ones or people around us. To me, that’s common sense.”
The debate around mandating masks has garnered a lot of attention on social media lately. One Facebook post in a group asking people to send their feedback to city council garnered over 1,000 comments within a few days, with mixed reactions coming from residents.
The Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) currently recommends wearing a mask or face covering when physical distancing isn’t possible.
In other areas, masks have been mandated in indoor public spaces by health units or municipalities. Toronto's mask bylaw went into effect today.
Starting Wednesday, July 8, masks are required in Public Health Sudbury and District businesses. Last week, its medical officer of health issued instructions to owners and operators of commercial establishments, as well as public transit, to have policies in place to stop people from entering if they are not wearing a face covering.
In the Porcupine Health Unit area, there have been 67 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of those, 59 are recovered and eight people have died.
Solomon said that's a “big number” considering the demographics of the PHU area.
“To me, that’s a message that we need to decide. Yes, (masks) may be inconvenient but what about your health? That’s something that people need to think about,” he said. “There are some vulnerable citizens who won’t be able to wear a mask because of their medical condition and you’re putting them at risk if you’re not wearing yours.”
He believes the reason why there were no cases in the northern coastal communities is because local leaders were able to make difficult decisions and restrictions such as shutting down borders and suspending travel between the communities.
“I don’t think it’s required to wear a mask if you’re driving or outside. I think it’s when you go to a shop or a mall, you need to wear it. Why not?”
A report on masks in Timmins is expected at the July 14 council meeting.