The city will require people to wear masks on Winnipeg Transit buses and in city-run buildings "for the foreseeable future," Mayor Brian Bowman said Wednesday.
As of Saturday, the province will drop its mask mandate in indoor public settings.
"You can expect us to be the last out of those requirements," Bowman said.
The city is waiting for provincial health orders to be released before making decisions about mask requirements, said Bowman.
"We’re going to review the order. We’re going to scrutinize it, and then we’ll make some determinations, and we’ll advise once we’ve been able to do that due diligence," the mayor said. "But certainly for the foreseeable future, you shouldn’t expect change with respect to the requirements to wear masks in city facilities, including within our transit buses."
Bowman said one factor in the city’s decision to require masks was to protect children under 12, who are ineligible to be vaccinated.
"If wearing a mask is one way that we can protect children in our community, it’s a simple thing to do, and I’m certainly going to continue to wear a mask indoors," he said.
The Free Press spoke to 15 bus riders Wednesday; all of them said they support mask use.
One person said she was fine with it, but wouldn’t wear a mask if it wasn’t required. Two people said even though they support the city and Winnipeg Transit’s decision, they would be comfortable being on the bus without masks.
James Wall was not one of those people.
"Right now? No. Absolutely not," said the 41-year old daily bus rider, adding that he often sees people remove their masks while still on the bus. "I, personally, am going to wear my mask even when restrictions are loosened."
Wall said he lives with his sister and her children, who are too young to be vaccinated. That’s why he’s extra cautious, he said.
"I worry about the children."
Robin Rahman was also quick to throw his support behind the continued mask mandate for buses.
"I think it’s good," said the 22-year-old. "I mean, the vaccination is not a cure. It boosts your immunity, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t get affected by the virus. I think it’s better to be safe and keep the mask on."
Rahman said he doesn’t find wearing a mask to be a burden and he believes it’s an easy way to protect the community.
Reginald Fedeluk was also glad to hear the city’s decision. The 77-year-old takes the bus daily, as it’s often his only source of transportation.
"In confined spaces, if anybody’s got (COVID-19), you’ve got to be careful at all costs, especially on buses," he said.
While Fedeluk supports the city’s decision, he said he’s glad private businesses will get to decide whether or not to require masks.
The province strongly recommends people who aren't vaccinated, including children under 12, wear masks.