Guelph just did it; Should Simcoe Muskoka order mandatory face masks at region’s businesses?

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Agatha Farmer

The post COVID-19 world in at least one part of Ontario has become reality. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health Unit has issued a mandatory order for residents to wear face masks at every commercial establishment in that region. Should the district of Muskoka follow suit? In a written notice Dr. Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health for the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph health unit, ordered that effective as of 12:01 a.m. on June 12, 2020 patrons visiting businesses without face masks will be prohibited from entering.

The order “prohibits persons from entering the premises of the commercial establishment or remaining in the premises if the said person is not wearing a face covering. The face covering must be worn inside the establishment at all times, unless it is reasonably required to temporarily remove the face covering for services provided by the establishment.

A person shall be exempt from wearing a face covering on the premises if:

a.The person is a child under the age of two years;

b. Wearing a Face Covering would inhibit the person’s ability to breathe in any way; or

c. For any other medical reason the person cannot safely wear a face covering.”

The order explains that “accumulating epidemiological evidence indicates that the widespread use of face coverings by all persons decreases spread of respiratory droplets, and expert opinion supports the widespread use of face coverings to decrease transmission of COVID-19.”

The document also states that the “use of face coverings is recommended by the chief medical officer of health of Ontario and the chief public health officer of Canada in situations where physical distancing (spatial separation of individuals by at least two metres) is difficult to maintain.“ Included in the order was an explanation of the type of masks which will be accepted.

“A Face Covering means a medical mask or a non-medical mask or other face coverings such as a bandana, a scarf or cloth that covers the mouth, nose and chin ensuring a barrier that limits the transmission of infectious respiratory droplets.”

Whether or not such an order might be issued for Muskoka is debatable based on the stance of Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, who in April said that “a homemade cloth mask could help someone who doesn’t know they have the virus keep from spreading it to others.” He added that

“people should be aware they’re not of proven value, if there is any value in them it’s more from the point of view of avoiding infecting others.”

Recently Muskoka Post published a column by Muskoka business owner Teresa McLaughlin who is fighting for mandatory face masks in the district.

In her column she implored fellow business owners to implement a ‘No Mask, No Entry’ policy and said that “it is clear we must move forward to an open economy but I believe there is a much safer way to navigate. Each business owner has the power to help in this fight and I would suggest it is our responsibility to mitigate against this virus to the best of our ability. The simple act of wearing a face covering has been proven to cut down the spread of airborne inoculum, yet only a percentage of our citizens are using them. The wearing of face coverings only works properly if all parties are participating. There are historical studies taken from the 1918 pandemic to back up this hypothesis as well as real time data coming out of Europe and Asia. You only have to look to the Czech Republic and South Korea to realize that mandatory face coverings have had a substantial decrease in the death toll. Why then are we not adopting this policy?“

It’s a highly debated question in this transitional COVID-19 world in which it is clear that not everyone agrees with mandatory face coverings.

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