Mandatory masks not the way to go in C-K: Colby


By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative

Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health is concerned that the debate on masks has moved out of the scientific arena and into the political arena during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. David Colby, told the Board of Health on Wednesday that he has no plans to make masks mandatory throughout the municipality, based on the empirical evidence of their effectiveness.

“I like to restrict our consideration of masks to scientific data. And there’s really very little evidence that they do very much,” he said.

Medical masks worn by hospital staff are very protective when dealing with infected individuals, however, the data on wearing cloth masks in public is “all over the map,” Colby said. Although it is “better than nothing,” 

Colby did say that too many disposable masks would cause environmental hazards.

Masks are mandated in Chatham-Kent in places where physical distancing is next to impossible. Servers in restaurants must wear masks but customers are not required to do so. Both workers and patrons in personal service (hairdressers and nail salons) must also wear a mask.

On Friday, as facials become permissible throughout the province, estheticians will be required to wear the face protection.

Colby said Chatham-Kent’s cases have been transferred through close contact, not community transmission, and therefore, mandatory masks for everyone are not necessary in preventing the spread. 

Chatham-Kent’s dispersed population also played a factor in Colby’s decision.

“We have a low population density here between 41-43 people per square kilometre distributed quite widely throughout the municipality. Masking makes a lot more sense in environments that have crowding and higher population density. It just doesn’t make sense here,” he said.  

CK Public Health relies on the “hierarchy of COVID-19 controls: physical distancing, engineering controls (plastic barriers), and administrative controls (one-way aisles and crowd limits).”

Colby also told the board that parents need not worry about their children transmitting or contracting COVID-19 from playground equipment.

There isn’t a lot of virus that has been deposited on surfaces to begin with,” he said. “And in situations of a hot summer day, in full sunlight, the virus would not persist at all.”

Colby said the virus will last for several days on a surface that is moist and cool if it has the cells needed in order to reproduce.

“But that’s not really the way this virus spreads significantly. It’s direct contact and close proximity,” he said.

Playgrounds and splash pads will be open this Friday. Colby previously kept splash pads closed during Stage 2 of reopening, waiting until the playgrounds also got the provincial green light.

Colby said he’s hoping having the playgrounds and splash pads open at the same time, will spread out the crowds of people.


  1. Alright, let’s do a little thought experiment. This is how to teach children to think through a problem between two choices.

    Choice one – Do not wear a mask public
    Choice two – Wear a mask in public

    Let’s say there are two outcomes:

    Masks help to reduce the spread of Covid-19
    Masks do not help reduce the spread of Covid-19

    Now lets compare the four different permutations of these outcomes.

    We are asked to wear masks in public and it does nothing – Oh darn, you’ve been slightly inconvenienced in an attempt to make public health better. Seat belts, speed limits, food inspection come to mind here. While in this case it may not help to protect against Covid-19 it would help other droplet diseases.

    We are asked to wear masks and it does help prevent the disease. It could be a marked reduction in the spread of the disease and allow our economies to remain active longer in-between surges of the disease! (Not to mention saving human life, which unlike the good doctors opinion here should be the primary reason for doing this) Great!

    We are not asked to wear a mask and they do not prevent the spread. Not much to say here this is what we like to call the libertarian special

    Finally, this is the path the good doctor here is suggesting we go. We are not asked to wear masks in public, and it can help prevent the disease. Waiting to make this recommendation at the beginning of the pandemic to allow health care professionals to source ppe can be forgiven as it was done in good faith to prepare our society for a potential calamity.

    What this doctor is suggesting is ignoring even the potential of a benefit, he is telling you to gamble your life on not putting a piece of fabric over your face what, an hour or two a day?

    Have any of your read about the chronic conditions being reported after suffering from covid-19? Blood Clots, permanent organ damage, and chronic fatigue syndrome to name a few. What about 5 years from now? 10?

    Alberta Public health, the CDC, the government of Canada, the university of Hong Kong, Cambridge University all either have studies or models showing mask use reducing the spread of Covid-19 by 60-95% depending on the amount of the population wearing masks. The intimation that the “science” isn’t in is staggeringly misinformed and I say an absolute abdication of the duties of the office this doctor holds.

    I think it’s time to hang it up doc.

  2. Congratulations Mr. COLBY. you are making a decision using your own brain rather than following the unwarranted decisions of other leaders that appear intent on turning other communities in Ontario into dictatorships using their new found political powers in this covid time.

  3. Dear concerned citizen
    What this doctor is doing is using common sense.
    What this doctor is suggesting is that you are ignoring the potential of a plethora of side effects from the improper use of these masks and the long term effect such as mental health. Do you for one minute think of what everyone is doing with these masks? Do they wash or change them every hour, day, week or ever? Are they worn properly? Are they constantly touching it with their grimy hands? How are they disposed of? Imagine the environmental impact. Even the carbon foot print they create. This doctor is thinking outside of the box. We need all doctors to take note of this and step up!


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