Face masks will become mandatory in common areas of buildings owned and operated by Moncton starting later this month under a policy city councillors approved Monday evening.
The city, once the policy takes effect Sept. 28, will become the latest to require masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some grocery store chains and other retail outlets have imposed similar rules.
The policy reflects the piecemeal approach by businesses and municipalities in New Brunswick in the absence of a provincewide rule, which exists in Nova Scotia.
"I really hope the provincial government … the provincial election is over, so now is the time to look at what Nova Scotia has done," Deputy Mayor Shawn Crossman said Monday.
"By us putting this into place, I hope the province understands we're serious about this and that it has to be serious for them."
Conrad Landry, the city's fire chief and leader of its emergency measures organization, said other municipalities in the province have implemented mask rules.
"It's sending a message to the government," Landry said.
Under New Brunswick's emergency measures order, people must wear non-medical masks when they can't maintain physical distancing in the community, like grocery stores and pharmacies. On Tuesday, the province announced it would require face masks inside Service New Brunswick locations starting Oct. 1.
While Service New Brunswick will require masks, the provincial government has yet to introduce a mandatory, province-wide rule.
Bruce Macfarlane, a spokesperson for the Health Department, didn't directly answer whether the province is considering a policy such as the one in Nova Scotia
"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, our guidance may change," Macfarlane said in an email Tuesday.
Moncton's policy, passed unanimously, applies to anyone entering municipal buildings, including members of council, city staff and contractors. It calls for use of a factory or homemade mask of tightly woven fabric like cotton or linen that's large enough to completely cover a person's nose and mouth without gaping.
The policy says face covering must be worn at all times when in building common areas, unless otherwise advised by an employee when visiting their office, workspace, or a boardroom, provided that two metres of physical distancing can be maintained or a physical barrier is present.
Common areas include hallways, stairwells, lunch or break rooms, kitchens and elevators. Once a city staff member has reached their office or workstation, if it isn't occupied by other people, the staff member can remove the mask. People speaking at city council meetings can remove the mask.
Landry said face coverings are more widely available now, people are getting used to retail locations, plus the flu season is approaching and face masks could help with that.
"It's a simple measure, it's easy to do and some research has shown it can reduce transmission by about 30 per cent," Landry said.
Landry said once the policy is approved, signs will be placed in key areas to tell the public about the rule.
Coun. Charles Léger asked how compliance would be ensured.
"If it's because of health reasons - if it's anxiety or whatever - we have to be careful that we can't discriminate and we can't start asking for reasons or a doctor's note," Landry said.
Landry said there will be disposable masks available and if they refuse, they'll be asked to maintain physical distance and practice good hygiene.
If someone can't keep two metres from another person and refuses to wear a mask, Landry told council they will be told to leave the city building.
Where masks are required
Moncton isn't the only jurisdiction to implement mask rules. In Dieppe, masks are mandatory in recreation facilities such as the Arthur-J.-LeBlanc Arena and the Aquatic and Sports Centre, but not at City Hall.
Moncton's policy applies to City Hall, the Magnetic Hill Zoo, the Moncton Market, Resurgo Place, Free Meeting House, Thomas Williams House, Treitz Haus, the Coliseum Complex, the city's operations centre, fire stations, the Codiac Regional RCMP detachment, Codiac Transpo, the Crossman Community Centre/Kay Arena, Tankville School, the Highfield Pumping Station, and the Centennial Park maintenance depot.
Isabelle LeBlanc, a city spokesperson, said similar rules would apply in the Superior Propane Centre.
Masks will be mandatory at the city's Avenir Centre until a person is in their assigned seat.