Muskoka Council pauses on Mask bylaw till Simcoe Muskoka Public Health press conference tomorrow

FYI for future public health orders.

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Muskoka Post Staff

This afternoon the district council of Muskoka postponed a decision on a mandatory mask bylaw.

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit addressed the hot topic at this afternoon's special council meeting by saying that he has been a strong proponent of people voluntarily using cloth masks when physical distancing can not occur. His position has strengthened on this issue over the last 3 months. However he did note that evidence of using a cloth mask is "still weak and limited." One of the issues with cloth masks is that they are more porous than a medical mask, but medical masks are still in short supply and therefore should not be purchased by the public. Gardner said that since last Thursday there has been an uptick in orders of mask use amid various Ontario municipalities and moving in that direction quickly. Gardner then said that he will be be making a "significant" public announcement for Simcoe Muskoka tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Gardner said there is a strong desire for municipalities to have him lead on an order from the public health unit on mandatory masks. It is believed that this is what he will be announcing tomorrow during his press conference.

He said that masking now can make a significant contribution to controlling further spread and a potential Covid-19 second wave. Dr. Gardner recommended that Muskoka council wait until tomorrow before making a decision on a mask use bylaw.

Bracebridge mayor Graydon Smith asked regarding the use of shields vs masks. Gardner said shields can be used in addition to masks or for individuals with mask exemptions, however, shields alone will not protect at the level of a mask.

Enforcement, given the limited bylaw personnel within Muskoka municipalities, as well as education on how to properly wear a mask were areas of concern for some councillors.

A tentative resoution was drafted on behalf of Muskoka which outlined a motion to move on mandatory masks in the region with exemptions, however, council decided to hold off until tomorrow's health unit announcement.

This hastily scheduled meeting was announced on Friday July 3, following an exchange on Twitter between Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith and a constituent earlier that week.

Letting the proverbial cat out of the bag on district staff gathering info regarding the highly debated topic. Muskoka Post gathered over 500 comments at last count and growing with reaction both for and against such a bylaw. We wait with excitement until 'morrow.

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