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Mandatory mask use reaches New Tecumseth

July 9, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Legislation enforcing the use of masks has been of growing interest among the public as larger urban areas such as Toronto and Ottawa passed bylaws.

This type of guideline has now reached New Tecumseth as the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) announced on Tuesday the public is required to wear a face covering when entering businesses, organizations and public transit systems, starting July 13.

“As we move through the stages of the reopening of the economy there is an increased risk of resurgence of COVID-19 transmission in our communities,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU’s Medical Officer of Health.

“Locally, we are seeing more visitors from other parts of the province with a much higher incidence of COVID-19, resulting in crowding in public spaces, and this has us concerned.”

The order regarding facial coverings asks businesses to use their “best efforts” in making the public wear masks. There is no requirement, however, that a business turn away customers because they’re not wearing a facial covering.

Exemptions also exist for religious or medical circumstances.

Nonetheless, Dr. Gardner stressed the importance of mask use and the positive effect it can have on infection control.

“Using masks is very important if you’re in a location, particularly indoors but even outdoors when you cannot physically distance,” he noted.

Masks can be medical or non-medical and facial covering such as a bandana, scarf or cloth that covers the mouth and nose work as well.

Last week, Dr. Gardner said any orders regarding mask use created by the SMDHU would be difficult to enforce as the health unit doesn’t have the capacity or resources to monitor commercial spaces and issue tickets.

“If the municipalities were to do it with a bylaw, they have bylaw enforcement officers and potentially would have more resources to be able to do it,” he explained during a press conference on June 30.

“At the end of the day, it would be fair to say that it would be incumbent upon everybody to self-enforce if it were going to work regardless, you really need a lot of public goodwill for it to work.”

Dr. Gardner said SMDHU has limited resources, but if they receive a complaint about COVID-19 guidelines being broken they will follow up.

He lauded the work that’s been done by the business community since Simcoe Muskoka entered Ontario’s Stage 2 Reopening Plan.

“Our businesses and organizations that are open to the public have worked diligently to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and many already ask that patrons and clients wear a face covering,” said Dr. Gardner.

“Requiring the public to wear a face covering is an extra step to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and is key for the continued successful reopening of the local economy and to safeguard our residents against the virus in circulation now, into the fall and beyond.”

Meanwhile, Simcoe County’s beaches have filled up as warmer temperatures bring more people outside.

The SMDHU has put forward recommendations to Simcoe County’s municipalities, outlining how to operate in a safe manner.

Dr. Gardner said the beach must maintain a reasonably low number of occupants so beach goers can adequately physically distance to reduce potential for COVID-19 transmission.

Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks is in charge of setting rules on public places such as beaches and it would be up to this provincial body to limit the numbers of beach goers, said Dr. Gardner.

For popular areas he recommends limiting the number of parking spaces or controlling the number of people entering into the beach if issues are arising.

“This is all part of maintaining the curve flat and keeping things under control,” noted Dr. Gardner.

“We know that the control measures we’ve all followed and have been responsible for us having the success we’ve had so far and keeping the cases, deaths and hospitalizations under control.”

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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