Regina's mayor want to enforce mandatory masks on city transit starting next month.
Mayor Michael Fougere announced he will be proposing a motion at the upcoming city council meeting to create a bylaw that will make mask use on transit compulsory. Until now the city said masks were mandatory, but people not wearing one would still be allowed to ride.
The change comes after a Regina transit employee tested positive for COVID-19. The city said the employee last worked from Oct. 8 to Oct. 10 and is self-isolating. It said the Saskatchewan Health Authority determined the exposure is not work-related.
Kim Onrait, Regina's executive director of citizen services, said the workspaces and vehicles the person was in contact with have been sanitized and the buses are fogged nightly as a part of enhanced cleaning in place since March. There is also a barrier between drivers and the public to minimize transmission.
"We are very concerned about the risk that this presents to the thousands of people who take transit each and every day," Fougere said. "Making masks mandatory in transit is a step we've taken to ensure that we provide more safety for residents."
Fougere said transit has a high compliance rate, but that some are not following it and it is not possible to maintain the physical distancing needed.
He said masks haven't been enforced until now because the city was hoping for better circumstances. The known active cases have doubled in Regina to 48 from 22 in less than a week.
"If you get on the bus, please wear a mask. This is the second time we've had an incident in our transit system. We want to make sure people are safe," Fougere said.
Fougere said he is confident city councillors will support the motion. He said he would leave how enforcement would take place up to city administration, but that bus drivers would not be the main enforcers.
"We are not going to put employees in that circumstance. The bus drivers is there to drive the bus, they're not there to be doing this," Fougere said. "So we want to protect them again from this."
Fougere said the motion needs approval from city council to be put into place. He said at this time he is not considering calling a special city council meeting to have the motion approved before the end of October.
City expanding mask distribution during peak hours
The city said it will also expand mask distribution for passengers. City administration said it had distributed almost 4,500 disposable masks since Aug. 31 and will now have 10 locations with masks for people to use during peak ridership times.
Masks will be available at the following locations on weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. CST and 3 to 6 p.m.
- 11th Avenue between Lorne Street and Rose Street (both sides of street).
- Golden Mile Shopping Centre.
- Normanview Crossing.
- 12th Avenue between Smith Street and McIntyre Street (behind City Hall).
- University of Regina at the Riddell stop.
- Harvard Way at Grasslands Drive (Harbour Landing Walmart).
- Northgate Mall.
- Superstore East.
- Glencairn Shopping Centre.
"There really is no excuse to not have a mask," Fougere said.
Fougere said the mandatory order may increase ridership on transit because people may feel safer getting on a bus. People are encouraged to wear non-medical cloth masks, a bandana in two layers or other alternative coverings.
There are exemptions for children under five years old, people with medical conditions or people who can't put on or remove a mask without help.