Despite being heavily debated, Chatham-Kent’s mask by-law will not be changing.
In August, council passed a by-law, which makes masks mandatory in enclosed space, with a few exceptions.
During Sept. 14 council meeting, a report was presented, which recommended several amendments to the by-law including:
- All operators of enclosed public spaces ensure the availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizer at all entrances and exits of the premises
- Even when wearing a mask, every person must maintain a psychical distance of two-metres from every other person who is not part of their household or 10-person social circle.
- A requirement for all persons to wear a mask while on public transit vehicles as well as while on public transit property, including stations and shelters
Ultimately, the by-law fell short of change by a single vote, as council’s vote on the amendments was split, meaning it failed.
Councillor Steve Pinsonneault spoke out against the recommendations and expressed his concerns about getting carried away with the by-law.
“Chatham-Kent is pretty much COVID free now,” he said. “We’re taking this by-law to a new extreme. For several businesses within the municipality, it’s not feasible to meet the two metres separation in 100 percent of the cases. We’re affecting their livelihood. On top of that, our by-law enforcement personnel, they’re overworked, they’re stressed at this time.”
Additionally, there were also staff recommendations that masks be allowed to be temporarily removed during religious services when need be. However, they would continue to be mandatory for all other parts of the religious service.
Councillor Michael Bondy made an amendment that asked for religious services to be exempt from the mask by-law, so long as physical distancing is maintained and masks are worn during singing.
General Manager of Health and Family Services Dr. April Rietdyk, expressed his concerns, noting several cases of COVID-19 have been linked to people attending religious ceremonies in the past few weeks.
“Masks are really there to protect respiratory droplets of those wearing them, those activities (singing and speaking loudly) propel those respiratory droplets further than if we were just speaking or sitting quietly in a restaurant and eating.”
Ultimately, Bondy’s amendment failed 61 percent to 39 percent, meaning masks will be required at all times while at a religious gathering.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News