Mandatory mask usage will be up for discussion again at next week’s council meeting.
Mayor Darrin Canniff says a councillor will make a motion to revoke the municipal bylaw at the Nov. 8 meeting. Chatham-Kent passed the bylaw August 2020 requiring the protective gear in all indoor public spaces.
“Councillors considered their views, the views of the constituents and the views from medical professionals,” says Canniff last summer. “It was a difficult decision and they voted with the best interest of the community at heart.”
At the time there was no provincial legislation regarding masks. Now that there is, any decision made at the municipal level would be largely symbolic since it would be overruled by the province’s rules.
“It would essentially change nothing until the province rescinds their masking requirements,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby.
That might happen before too long though after the province announced they’d be rolling back all public health measures, including indoor masking, early in the new year. If this goes as planned and Chatham-Kent also repeals their bylaw, the face coverings would no longer be mandatory once the provincial mandate ends.
“The province was signalling they’re of the opinion all of this will eventually end, to give people some hope. But it’s all contingent on whether everything settles down… We’ll just have to wait and see how things roll out,” says Colby.
CAO Don Shropshire says he’s in no rush to end the mask mandate at the municipal level. “Depending what conditions exist in Chatham-Kent there may be a need for Dr. Colby to consider more stringent recommendations. Our vaccination rates are still some of the lowest in the province,” he says.
Chatham-Kent finally hit the 80 per cent mark for fully dosed residents age 12 and up last week. There’s 85 per cent of people with one shot.
“I’d hate to get to a point where the rest of the province is opening up and we’re still required to wear masks or maintain regulations because we still haven’t produced the sort of results that the rest of the province has,” says Shropshire. “So I don’t think we should be doing anything with any of our regulations in any way that is going to restrict what’s required to keep our community safe.”
There’s 60 active cases in the municipality and five current outbreaks, two in schools. Five locals are in hospital at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent