TORONTO, ON., June 11, 2020 — Today, Mayor John Tory along with Rick Leary, CEO for the TTC announced that pending Board approval on June 17, face coverings will be mandatory through the entire TTC system as of July 2 to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19.
In a report to the TTC Board, posted in advance of the June 17 meeting, staff recommend the move as a way to improve customer and employee safety when the city begins to open up and ridership increases.
If approved by the TTC Board, the new rules would come into effect on July 2.
“We know that as customers return to the TTC, physical distancing is no longer going to be possible on all vehicles at all times,” said TTC CEO Rick Leary. “This is one more thing we can do for ourselves and each other to limit the spread of COVID-19.”
“I strongly support requiring the use of a cloth mask, or face covering on public transit where physical distancing is difficult to maintain,” said the Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto, Dr. Eileen de Villa. “This can help to stop the spread of your germs and respiratory droplets to those around you when physical distancing is challenging. This action will also help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our city and keep those around us safer as we live with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.”
Other urban centres are taking the same precautions as yesterday Mississauga announced that face coverings will be mandatory when travelling on MiWay as well as at stops and transit terminals to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 as of July 2. While, the cities of Brampton and Hamilton also made similar announcements. In Brampton, officials have said that 100,000 masks will begin to be distributed to transit riders on June 22.
Today’s announcement in Toronto follows Ontario’s public transit recommendations, including the use of physical barriers between drivers and passengers and physical markers between seats.
“People must continue to exercise caution when on public transit because physical distancing will be a challenge,” Minister of Health Christine Elliott said in a press statement. “I urge everyone to follow our public health guidelines. They may seem simple, but they are effective in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And if you are worried you have the virus or have been in contact with someone who has the virus, please get tested.”
The TTC has already taken numerous steps to keep the system clean and safe for customers and employees including: conducting multiple vehicle and station cleanings each day, equipping subway stations with hand sanitizer dispensers and installing barriers and signage to remind customers to keep their distance from operators. The TTC will also employ a one-time targeted strategy to distribute one million non-medical masks to customers.
“I fully support making face coverings mandatory on the TTC. This will help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our city,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory. “As the restart and reopening begins, we know there will be more people back on the TTC and physical distancing will become a greater and greater challenge. We are doing everything we can to make sure the TTC remains clean, reliable, and safe.”
Meanwhile today, the province has reported only 203 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 more deaths.
Exemptions will be made for children under two years of age and for those who have medical considerations or are unable to put on or take off a face covering. Likewise, employees who work behind a physical shield or in areas not accessible to the public are also exempt.
“Safety is paramount to all the TTC does every day,” said TTC Chair Jaye Robinson. “Our customers and our employees all need to see and feel that everything is being done to make the TTC as safe as possible and to protect them during this pandemic. Making face coverings mandatory is one more way we can do that.”
Given the exemptions and based on experiences in other jurisdictions where compliance has been high, the TTC does not believe strict enforcement will be necessary. Compliance rates will be monitored to determine if further actions are needed.