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Mandatory Face Mask Laws Are Here. Will They Make It Harder to Procure PPE?

Next time you go to the bank or grocery store, don’t forget your mask or you might not be allowed in.

Most large municipalities in Ontario have instituted mandatory mask laws in the past month. Toronto’s stringent mask by-law, taking effect July 7, comes with a $1,000 fine for each offence. The bylaw applies to indoor spaces that are openly accessible to the public. Hamilton has created a very similar law which includes a $500 fine per infraction. How strict these cities will be with enforcement remains to be seen.

There is no question that the science supports masks as a method to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. A recent study showed that US states with mask mandates showed a slowing of the COVID-19 daily growth rate of 0.9% 5 days after the law took effect, and a slowing of 2% at 3 weeks.

Whether or not masks should be worn is an easy question. How to ensure citizens and businesses comply with mandatory mask use is a more difficult question.

face mask required sign

Mask Law Requirements for Businesses and Citizens

In Toronto, businesses must formulate and communicate a mask policy to their customers. All staff, patrons and visitors are required to don a mask indoors with the exception of children under two and people with certain health conditions.

But what happens when one is engaged in activities where wearing a mask is impractical or even impossible? Do you have to wear a mask while eating, for instance, pulling it on in between bites?

The answer is no. Toronto’s by-law allows temporary removal of a mask when having a meal or engaged in a fitness activity.

The by-law does not apply to certain institutions, including:

  • Schools
  • Post-secondary institutions
  • Child care facilities
  • Private and public transportation, given that the TTC has its own bylaw
  • Hospitals or independent health care facilities
  • Offices of regulated health professionals
  • Apartment buildings and condominiums

An interesting point in the law is that a face shield does not count as an alternative to a mask. Because face shields do not fit tightly to the face they allow respiratory droplets to exit and enter the face area more easily than masks.

Proof is not required if someone has an exemption. This could lead to the situation where individuals who simply do not want to wear a mask could claim that they have an exemption. Businesses are being encouraged not to ask for evidence of an exemption.

The Ontario government has admitted that they lack the resources to enforce mask bylaws. According to the Toronto Police Service, a business can direct a person to leave under the Trespass to Property Act. However, if a person refuses to leave, what then?

It’s very unclear. Lawyers say that businesses can always refuse services to individuals who they feel is putting their employees and customers at risk, as long as it’s not on protected grounds, such as race or sexual orientation. If they refuse to leave, the business can call law enforcement and treat it as a trespassing offence.

In Hamilton, the by-law states that businesses must “take reasonable steps” to ensure no patron is permitted on the premises without a mask unless they are exempt.

Mask Laws Will Exacerbate PPE Shortage

With the shortage of face masks and resulting soaring prices since the start of the pandemic, businesses and healthcare facilities have been having trouble maintaining their supply. Face mask prices have increased by more than 1500% in some places since the onset of the pandemic.

Procuring face masks will become even more difficult now that masks are mandated in most places. To make matters worse, there is a good chance that these laws will continue for a long time. Now that they are in place, municipal governments will err on the side of caution and keep them in effect. This is especially true if there is a second wave, as many experts say is likely. 

The recent news that public schools will be opening up full-time in September with face masks required for most students will add even more strain on the face mask supply chain. First, this means that millions of masks will need to be worn every day by children and school staff, making the shortage worse. Also, the knowledge that a second wave could rip through schools will create extra caution among lawmakers and keep mask laws in effect.

But a vaccine will save us from mandatory mask laws, won’t it? Probably not for a long time. Even after a vaccine is produced and distributed, which likely won’t be until at earliest well into 2021, governments will want to wait and ensure that the vaccine is effective before rolling back measures like mask laws

Many patrons will be fine using cloth or surgical masks, but some who are at higher risk will take the extra precaution of trying to obtain N95 masks or other respirators. There is an especially large shortage of these respirators. If businesses need them, they may have to get creative to keep their supply in good shape.

As an alternative to trying to stockpile in a shortage, decontaminating masks is a safe, effective and easy option for schools, businesses or healthcare settings that need to ensure their supply of face masks doesn’t dwindle.

How Does Mask Decontamination Work?

covid-19 mask cleaning machine

SteriRight uses the latest technology to bring N95 mask reprocessing and decontamination services to local businesses. The high-tech machines that SteriRight uses combined UV-C, hydrogen peroxide and ozone to make compounds that kill highly-resistant pathogens, like the novel coronavirus.

This process is cost-effective, environmentally-friendly and fast. SteriRight’s machine can sanitize hundreds of masks per hour. Masks are loaded into a tray that is placed on a conveyor belt. The entire process is completed in less than a minute. Convenience is at the heart of SteriRight’s service, so businesses can choose to have their masks cleaned in the mobile unit at their location, or if preferred, can ship their mask to the SteriRight site. 

So how do you access this great technology? Simply call SteriRight or fill out a contact form to set up a time for us to visit.

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