Brockville city hall is preparing a bylaw making the wearing of face masks mandatory in public areas of multi-residential buildings.
City staff is to present council with a report on the measure, meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, which comes at the urging of a local condominium representative.
“Should a coronavirus outbreak establish in a multi-tenant building, it could spread to the community at large like wildfire,” Bill Fraser, of the Boardwalk Condominium, told city council’s virtual meeting on Tuesday.
While he was the only one to speak, Fraser was listed as part of a delegation also including two representatives of the Tall Ships Landing condominium.
Fraser noted that, while four regional health units made the wearing of masks mandatory in indoor public spaces on July 6, the rule does not apply to private spaces accessible to members of the public, such as lobbies, common areas and elevators in apartment buildings and condominiums.
Many of those buildings have older populations and such common areas are rich in surfaces that can be touched to spread the virus, he added.
Fraser said larger centres, including Ottawa and Toronto, have already put in place bylaws making masks mandatory in such areas of multi-tenant buildings.
“With a bylaw, building managements can be the first line of enforcement and demand compliance, for the benefit of the entire community,” said Fraser.
“Of course, in extreme situations, building managers may have to call upon a bylaw enforcement officer to deal with an intransigent individual, but one or two of these enforcement incidents should bring most right-thinking people into line.”
Fraser said Eastern Ontario Property Management Group, which manages 35 multi-tenant buildings, including seven in Brockville, backs his request. He also included a letter of support from Leeds, Grenville and Lanark medical officer of health Dr. Paula Stewart.
Fraser’s request was well received by council.
“We’re all in this together,” said Coun. Jane Fullarton.
“We need to protect each other and that’s exactly what wearing a mask does.”
Coun. Matt Wren pointed to recent reports of additional COVID-19 cases in the tri-county area.
“We can’t afford to let out guard down,” he said.
“This is a little gap that I don’t think many of us understood.”
Wren said that, while the number of cases in the region remains relatively low, taking further precautions would help ensure no more stringent restrictions get placed on local businesses due to another outbreak.
“All it would take is someone in a condominium coming home from a weekend in Toronto with family or what not to bring the case back with them,” said Wren.
Council instructed staff to come back to the Sept. 22 meeting with recommendations on a temporary bylaw making face masks mandatory in these areas.
Coun. Larry Journal urged people in multi-tenant buildings not to wait for that bylaw.
“It sounds like we are going to legislate it to make it mandatory, but in the meantime, just out of respect of all of the other residents in the multi-unit buildings, I would ask that you wear a face mask,” said Journal.