Reactions mixed over mandatory masks on Winnipeg Transit, in city-owned buildings

By | August 29, 2020

Masks became mandatory on Winnipeg Transit buses and inside city-owned buildings on Saturday, and most transit riders are on board.

“I think anywhere where people can’t safely socially distance, which, you know, we’ve been told is the safest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, is prudent. I mean, maybe it’s not a complete solution, but whatever we as a public can do to protect each other, I think is great,” said Iain McDonald.

Peter Zahradka loves the idea.

“I’m normally a bus taker. I have not taken the bus since I worked shut down. So I and I am concerned about taking the bus without masks. I will feel more comfortable doing so,” he said.

Chris Myers thinks this decision to mandate masks should have been made months ago.

“I do totally agree with it, because on transportation you’re really close together. It should have been implemented a long time ago, back in June, honestly, if you if you were taking the bus because you can’t social distance that well,” he said.

People wait for the bus to arrive in Winnipeg on Aug. 29. That day, masks became mandatory on city buses and in city-owned buildings. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

“It will be more safe,” added Manjot Kaur, adding that she’s observed less and less physical distancing on buses.

Carla Farquarson started wearing a mask as a transit user before the rules were mandated.

“I believe you’re protecting others around you when you wear your mask,” she said.

Masks are also mandatory on Winnipeg Transit Plus and for anyone going into any city-run facilities, including city hall, recreation and leisure facilities, libraries and administrative buildings starting Saturday.

Not everyone is happy about face coverings becoming mandatory in more spaces in the city.

An anti-mask protest was held at the Manitoba Legislature on Saturday calling on the government to respect their freedom of choice to not wear a mask. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

On Saturday, two anti-masks protests were held in the city.

Kelly Mitchell organized a Hugs over Masks rally at the Manitoba Legislature, which she says was done in conjunction with other similar rallies is a call for governments to respect people’s freedom to not wear masks if they choose.

“Not everybody agrees with mask mandates and we have a right to choose for ourselves,” she said over a bullhorn to a crowd of about 50 people.

Meanwhile, across town, a group of 30 or 40 protesters outside of the Superstore on Regent Avenue yelled, “Our freedom is essential” and called on shoppers to boycott the store over its mandatory mask policy.

Protesters rallied against a mandatory mask policy at the Superstore on Regent Avenue on Saturday. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Mitchell, and some of the other Hugs over Masks protesters also took part in this rally.

As the protesters circled the parking lot, disrupting traffic, some shoppers could be heard yelling insults at the anti-maskers and laughing at them.

Deputy mayor Markus Chambers, who represents St. Norbert and Seine River, says the debate around masks is polarizing.

“Residents in my ward have asked for the city to mandate masks on public transportation while others are very much adamant that they won’t wear a mask in public spaces,” he said.

Public health officials say masks aren’t the only defence against COVID-19. They should be used properly, and in addition to physical distancing, hand hygiene and staying home when sick.

Masks are also mandatory on buses in Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton and Saskatoon.

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