Face masks are not yet going away in Chatham-Kent.
Chatham-Kent Council has approved a motion to end its mask mandate --but face coverings will still have to be worn until provincial legislation is lifted.
Since the Ontario government has announced plans to end COVID-19 restrictions near the end of March 2022, Chatham-Kent council has begun taking steps to be ready.
Last week, Council voted 13-5 to pass a motion by West Kent Councillor Mark Authier to have Chatham-Kent’s mandatory mask bylaw expire the day the provincial government lifts its COVID-19 restrictions.
Authier clarified he doesn’t want people thinking because of this that they can go through Chatham-Kent without a mask. He said it’s simply for in the future when the provincial government does remove the mandate; it is removed in Chatham-Kent as well.
“Obviously, the provincial mandate takes precedence over ours,” said Authier. “It’s just for the future when the province does remove the mandate for masks that it is removed here as well.”
Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, said Chatham-Kent’s bylaw is redundant regarding the provincial masking rules and regulations enforced by legislation.
“I’m not sure if there is any significant effect of removing this from a practical view as long as the public does not misunderstand what the intention of removing it is,” said Colby. “I don’t see any real reason to have both of them enforced at the same time.”
Colby highlighted the fact his position as Medical officer of Health gives him the power, through a Section 22 order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, to enforce a rule for masking should that become necessary for any reason in Chatham-Kent.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province is aiming to lift all remaining measures, including masking requirements and emergency orders, on March 28, 2022.
However, for the time being, it will still be mandatory for protective gear to be worn in all indoor public spaces in Chatham-Kent.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News