THUNDER BAY — With the incidence of COVID-19 continuing to escalate in the city, Mayor Bill Mauro is calling for more enforcement of social distancing and the mandatory mask policy on Thunder Bay Transit.
Mauro has introduced a motion for discussion at Monday night's city council meeting.
It asks city administration to have municipal by-law enforcement officers posted on transit buses during regularly scheduled working hours "to monitor for compliance where practical and appropriate."
In the preamble to his motion, the mayor says "the situation is dynamic with increasing cases of COVID-19 in our community."
Mauro writes "Thunder Bay Transit is an essential service for residents and as such every effort needs to be made to ensure public health guidelines are being followed by all transit riders."
In an interview, Mauro told TBNewswatch that with respect to the tools available to the city has to contain community spread, "clearly one of the things we aren't doing that maybe we can do, is try to get some better compliance on the buses."
He noted that most municipalities have been struggling with how to manage transit during the pandemic.
The mask policy provides exemptions for people with certain health conditions.
Mauro said he appreciates and respects that, but still believes the presence of by-law officers on buses could have a positive impact.
"Perhaps if there was some by-law presence, those people who are not relying on an exception would simply respect the wishes of somebody who's trying to enforce community safety."
The mayor added "What I do know is that our numbers are spiking. I don't know where this will be next week. So it's very concerning. What can we do as a council? Maybe this is one piece that will help."
Last week the head of the bus drivers' union local said their health and the health of other passengers are being put at risk by the lack of enforcement.
On Monday, the ATU welcomed Mauro's motion and requested that the rest of city council support it.
"We need transit users to practise social distancing and wear face coverings as recommended by health officials, and not to ride the bus if you have COVID-19 symptoms," Local 966 President Fred Caputo said.
Caputo said he's optimistic that council will "do the right thing" and pass the motion.