ttc mask mandate

People in Toronto seem oblivious to the fact that masks are still required on the TTC

Have you been experiencing more side-eye on Toronto public transit vehicles than usual lately? If you're not clipping your toenails, eating a can of tuna or having obnoxiously loud speakerphone convos, there might be a simple reason for those disdainful vibes you're picking up.

Based on how many maskless people I've seen riding the TTC in recent weeks, a lot of Torontians don't seem to realize (or maybe care) that it's still illegal to board streetcars, subways and buses without a face covering.

Ontario famously (and controversially) lifted its mask mandates for most indoor spaces on March 21, leaving requirements in place only for "high-risk" settings such as hospitals, long-term care homes and, yes, public transit vehicles.

While all remaining restrictions were initially set to expire on April 27, the province announced last month amid a spike in case numbers that masking requirements for high-risk environments would remain in place until at least June 11.  

"To protect our progress in managing this latest wave, I am maintaining masking requirements in specific public settings where individuals who are, or may be, at increased risk of severe outcomes, are in close contact for extended periods of time," said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore when announcing the news on April 22.

"Continuing to follow masking requirements and keeping up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations are the best ways we can prevent transmission and protect our friends, families, and our communities."

Mask compliance has never been perfect in Toronto, to say the least, and the TTC has seen its fair share of disputes over face coverings since they were first mandated nearly two years ago.

Many online have noticed an uptick in noncompliance recently, however, now that masks aren't required indoors generally.

Is it possible that people are just confused? That they don't realize Ontario requires them to mask up on public transit? Yesterday's announcement that Toronto had finally terminated its 777-day-long state of emergency might have given some people the wrong idea, according to one local.

"I counted 27 maskless riders this afternoon within minutes of getting on at the Eglinton/Yonge subway station," TTC rider Ted Fairhurst told blogTO on Monday afternoon. "A much higher level of non-compliance compared to just last week."

Others have been reporting incidents of mass non-compliance the entire pandemic, though complaints have definitely spiked since regular mask mandates were lifted in March.

"Are mask mandates still the law on the TTC? If so why are so many people maskless with no announcements or visible enforcement happening?" asked one TTC rider of the commission on May 1.

"Wearing a mask on the TTC is still mandatory. We also still have campaigns to educate and remind customers on the importance of wearing a mask and how to properly wear one," replied the TTC.

"Please keep in mind that some customers are unable to wear a mask due to medical reasons."

"The TTC will not be enforcing the use of masks or refusing service to customers who are not able to wear a mask," wrote the transit agency similarly on May 6 to a different customer.

"We will continue to educate those who are able to wear a mask on their importance and how to properly wear them."

And therein lies the rub: It may be illegal to ride the TTC maskless, but nobody's enforcing that law, so people are doing whatever they want.

Some anti-maskers are going so far as to openly flout masking rules on Twitter, bragging about their non-compliance.

Fortunately, everyone in Ontario has the choice to mask up at any time, including on public transit, even when existing requirements lift.

Transit riders also have the right to leave a vehicle if they're uncomfortable, or politely express their displeasure with someone coughing maskless in their face. 

Wrote one Twitter user: "My new rule is if you're not wearing a mask on the TTC you get to enjoy uncomfortable direct eye contact."

A solid and very Toronto-like strategy if I've ever seen one.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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