Niagara MPP apologizes for not wearing mask in group photo after backlash

A Progressive Conservative MPP is apologizing for not wearing a face covering at an event last weekend tied to a Facebook post showing a large gathering with few people wearing masks or physically distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Niagara West’s Sam Oosterhoff admitted he should have worn a mask when he took the group photo and apologized in a release to Global News.

“This was an event at a staffed banquet hall, with under 50 people, including 5 tables distanced and limited to under ten people at each,” said the MPP.

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“However, I should have worn a mask when we took a quick pic, given the proximity of everyone, and I apologize for failing to do so.”

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Oosterhoff’s post has since been deleted from Facebook following backlash by many on social media, including the head of the Ontario Hospital Asociation (OHA), asking for his resignation.

In a Twitter post, OHA president and CEO Anthony Dale said Oosteroff should resign from Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office in connection with the incident.

“How many health care workers gathered this weekend for a party with 40 other people indoors?” said Dale.

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During question period at Queen Park on Monday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath pointed the finger at Premier Doug Ford saying his directions with  public health guidelines were “inconsistent” and “unclear.”

Horwath suggested that Oosterhoff and Ford’s own MPP’s were “challenging” and “ignoring” his direction.

Timiskaming—Cochrane MPP John Vanthof echoed Dale’s comments and said Oosteroff’s actions required the Conservatives to “set an example.”

“Is the Premier willing to ask for his resignation?” said Vanthof.

The MPP in his responses on social media referred to the province’s post in September that states limits on private social gatherings, which Oosteroff said did not apply in this case.

The province’s directive does not apply limits at events or gatherings held in staffed businesses and facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet halls, gyms, places of worship, recreational sporting or performing art events.

During his COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Premier Doug Ford said despite the mistake he has full confidence in Oosetroff as an MPP in Niagara.

“I’m a strong believer, you make a mistake, you go to apologize and say it’s not going to happen again. I accept that,” Ford said.

The Premier went on to say that the people in Niagara “love him” and that he was “proud” of him.

“He’ll continue being the P.A. to the education minister doing a great job.”

Oosterhoff is the youngest member of the Ontario legislature ever to be sworn into office. The Conservative was elected at age 19 on Nov. 17, 2016, beating former party leader Tim Hudak in a byelection.

Niagara Region with 107 active COVID-19 cases, five outbreaks

Niagara public health reported another four new COVID-19 cases on Monday, and the region has five outbreaks connected with the coronavirus at two retirement homes (Pioneer Elder Care in St. Catharines, the Meadows of Dorchester in Niagara Falls) and three nursing homes (Millennium Trail Manor in Niagara Falls, Rapelje Lodge in Welland and Gilmore Lodge in Fort Erie).

There are currently 107 active cases as of Oct. 26 and the region’s total number of cases is 1,351 since the pandemic began.

Niagara has had 68 virus-related deaths since March.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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