On Mandatory Masks for Phase 3

On Friday Dr. Mackie, Chief Medical Officer at the Middlesex-London Health Unit, issued an instruction making masks or face coverings mandatory in all enclosed indoor public spaces. Now this instruction does come with some common sense exemptions like:

  • Children under 12 years old;
  • People who have a medical condition or disability that inhibits their ability to wear a face covering;
  • Those individuals that are unable to apply or remove a face covering without help;
  • People with accommodations under the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with a Disabilities Act;
  • And staff or agents of an enclosed public space who are in an area of the premises that is designated for them and not accessible to the public, so basically an employees’ only area, or if they’re in an area separated by a physical barrier, such as plexiglass.

If you are an individual that falls within one of those exemptions, you can enter an establishment without a face covering. In light of the fact that you can’t or shouldn’t wear a mask due to one of the exemptions, please ensure you continue to follow all the other recommendations like proper hand washing, hand sanitizing, keeping 2m (or 6 feet 7 inches) away from others, and so on. No, 2m is NOT 6ft. It’s closer to 6’7”.

I know wearing a mask sucks. It 100%, unequivocally, sucks. I don’t enjoy it anymore than the next person, and I don’t envy those who now need to wear one all day when this wasn’t something routinely expected of you. And to that end, I have that much more respect now for healthcare professionals and other workers who already wore this kind of PPE day in, day out, 10 to 12 hours a day. But I digress… I would feel absolutely devastated if I found out I was an asymptomatic carrier and I caused you, or one of your relatives, to fall ill. Doubly so if that illness lead to someone’s death. I don’t want to find out if I’m a super spreader. I don’t you think you do either.

Now, I also know, because I have felt it personally, that this pandemic has caused a lot of anxiety, a sense of a loss of control over the choices we get to make for ourselves, some loss of cohesion because of the need for us to stay away from loved ones for extended periods of time, and more. I am not going to pretend that this has been easy on you, I’m not going to tell you we should just put up with it and get on with our lives when the effects are still being felt, especially by parents of younger children or those caring for loved ones. What I am going to tell you is that Canada, Ontario, Middlesex Centre has done pretty well so far. Not AMAZING, and I will get to why I say that later, but pretty well. Better than London and Strathroy-Caradoc, but not as well as some other jurisdictions.

What I would say is that throughout history many different events have occurred that have required society, as a whole, to make some temporary sacrifices for a greater good are numerous. Sometimes they were just, others they were not. Some of the sacrifices we were asked to make when this pandemic began have already ended, or come close to it. You can see friends and family again, unless they live in the United States; we can go out and do all sorts of activities again, we can even have decent-sized social gatherings. There are still some restrictions, some activities have simply been cancelled this year out of an abundance of caution, but by and large we have been able to regain a lot of those most fundamental freedoms. At this time, the Health Unit is temporarily requiring the vast majority of us to make one more sacrifice at just the time where we all become much more vulnerable again in order to try to maintain the momentum we have been able to make in reducing the spread of this virus, and hopefully one day in the near future absolutely eradicating it.

Wearing a mask does not protect me. Anyone going around trying to tell that’s what they’re for is working on very old information or inaccurate information at this point. Me wearing a mask protects you. You wearing a mask protects me. And there have been examples of many jurisdictions where mask-wearing is a key ingredient to reducing the spread of the virus. No one measure is a panacea, a silver bullet. But when you put it all together, all the steps we take work together and help us to stop infecting each other from getting sick with this deadly Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

So despite the fact that Middlesex Centre has seen only 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 up until now, I still want to see masks be mandates in all public spaces for a number of reasons:

  1. The virus is still spreading and causing disease.
  2. Stage 3 has just begun, and multiple other jurisdictions where re-opening has begun have seen a spike in cases within a month of re-opening. That includes places like Israel, Australia, Croatia, and Japan. In Israel and Croatia they set brand new records for new daily case numbers after re-opening. Closer to home Calgary has seen some recent spikes in cases traced back to restaurants and bars re-opening, and the Vancouver area has seen recent spikes including 28 cases in the NICU at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, including a baby. I think we can all agree we don’t want to see any stories like that around Middlesex Centre or our local children’s hospital.
  3. A patchwork of rules across the province could lead to a variety of issues including confusion over where you must wear a mask, resulting in avoidable stress, inter-personal tension, arguments, or worse 🥊).
  4. Middlesex Centre, a small municipality as far as population goes, has a case occurrence rate of 679 per million (if you extrapolate our numbers). That places just behind Saint Pierre et Miquelon at 112th for most cases/million. Not terrible, but not stellar. We have more cases/million than developing countries like Haiti, Nepal, Cameroon and Philippines.
  5. London’s rate of 1,475 cases per million is barely better than Estonia, but worse than Albania as of this writing.
  6. Canada still allows travel to and from the country for a variety of reasons, and that travel has accounted for a variety of cases in Regina, Saskatchewan recently.
  7. For those reasons, and others, I think it was very smart for Dr. Mackie to make masks mandatory for all enclosed public indoor spaces just as we began to re-open many businesses and increased the sizes of social gatherings allowed. At this time I am inclined to vote in favour of a by-law supporting that instruction, but of course I’m willing to hear good arguments against it. You can find my contact information on the municipal website or my personal website if you want to reach out.

Thanks for reading.

Supporting Information:

  1. https://twitter.com/NateSilver538/status/1283434043867049985
  2. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/infant-tests-positive-1.5654082
  3. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/fire-and-ice-cactus-club-cafe-outbreaks-covid-19-1.5654516
  4. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/covid-19-affected-flights-regina-1.5649154
  5. https://globalnews.ca/news/7190263/bc-coronavirus-update-july-17/
  6. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries