The City of Regina says it’s taking steps to ensure mandatory mask use on buses.
Since Aug. 31, mask use has been mandatory and Regina Transit has been handing out the personal protective equipment (PPE) at some locations.
“The bus drivers are being asked, as part of their function, to remind (riders) to please put a mask on and it is an exceptional circumstance where people don’t have masks on,” Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said on Tuesday.
Last week, Regina Transit increased distribution to 10 locations during peak ridership times. The city said it’s handed out just over 5,700 masks.
Starting Wednesday, Oct. 28, buses will be randomly checked for compliance and passengers not wearing a mask — except those who are medically exempt and children under five years of age — will be asked to leave.
The city said these enforcement measures are being put in place instead of passing a formal bylaw, which would take time to create, pass and establish enforcement protocols.
Fougere added that even with a bylaw, measures would look the same.
“Even with a bylaw, we would not be taking any more steps beyond that,” he said.
The union that represents over 200 members at Regina Transit supports the idea but doesn’t want drivers involved.
“We’ve made our position very clear that we really don’t want anything to do with this enforcement of this,” said Kevin Lucier, Regina- Amalgamated Transit Union Local 588 president.
Lucier noted that there have been incidents of physical violence toward drivers in Canada and the U.S. when asking passengers to mask.
“Operators have been assaulted and injured. We’ve had one operator killed in France for basically just trying to enforce that policy, by engaging the public in that discussion. It’s putting us into unnecessary danger.”
Drivers are told to call transit inspectors or Regina Police Service (RPS) to handle confrontations.
The city has had five supervisors working over the course of a 20-hour day and it currently hiring three more inspectors.
The union said hard shields would help protect drivers from COVID-19 and physical harm.
“The two incidents that we had recently — we had one operator assaulted, one sexually assaulted — both would have been prevented had the hard shields been in place,” Lucier said.
The union president added that current safety measures don’t prevent incidents from happening.
“The problem is our operators are out there working alone,” Lucier said.
“We do have contact with RPS and we do have contact with our road supervisor, but it’s going to be 20 to 30 minutes before you’re going to get someone out to your bus. A lot of things can happen during that time.”
The city said it’s looking into hard shields and has a request in for federal funding.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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