SUDBURY -- City council in Timmins will review a report Tuesday evening on implementing a mandatory mask bylaw in the community, to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

The report, prepared by city staff, says several communities have implemented the rule, following direction from their local health units, so it "would be premature without an order issued by the medical officer of health" to approve a mask bylaw.

"Also, council will need to decide if they would consider exempting any type of business or other public gathering space, such as churches, from the order/bylaw," the report said.

Mandatory mask orders essentially require anyone entering public and commercial facilities to wear either a non-medical mask or face covering in areas where the public is permitted. Whether the city would make exemptions for churches, for example, would have to be decided first.

"There are also concerns regarding the availability and affordability of face masks locally," the report said. "The city, while working with our community partners, experienced significant issues with acquiring the required face masks, both medical and non-medical, during this emergency."

Councillors would also have to decide whether to require businesses to provide masks to their customers.

"Keeping in mind that the city itself will be considered as the owner-operator of many of the potential establishments - i.e., museum, transit and city hall," the report said.

Two informal polls were conducted, one with 2,700 respondents by Coun. Rock Whissell and a second by an online media site, and the combined result found 55 per cent were opposed and 45 per cent in favour.

"All of which indicated that the community is evenly split," the report said.

The report recommends councillors not make a decision until they receive direction from the Porcupine Health Unit.