Face coverings will be mandatory inside all Guelph and Wellington County businesses as of Friday as it moves to Stage 2 of the Ontario government’s reopening plan.
The local public health unit has issued an order that requires all businesses to prohibit anyone entering the premises if they are not wearing something over their mouth and nose unless it is for the services provided by the businesses.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer says this is all about protecting people from the novel coronavirus.
“Mask use is important to protect others from individuals who are infectious with the COVID-19 virus,” she said in a phone interview. “We happen to be a health unit that still has evidence of ongoing transmission of the virus.”
Nine new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Guelph between Monday and Tuesday, bringing the total to 159 cases.
Guelph has seen nine people die during the pandemic and 113 cases are considered recovered. Among the 37 active cases, five people are in hospital.
Mercer said up to 40 per cent of people are asymptomatic when they are out in the community and some are still going out with mild symptoms.
“People don’t know that they have it,” she said. “Many of the people that we get positive results from and we talk to them, they have no idea where they got it from.”
Under the order, children under 2 years old do not have to wear a face covering nor does anyone if it inhibits their ability to breath or for some other medical reason.
Outdoor patios, which are allowed to open on Friday under Stage 2, are also exempt.
Public Health said a face covering means a medical mask or a non-medical mask such as a bandana, scarf or cloth that covers the nose, mouth and chin.
Mercer said she couldn’t provide an answer for how long the order will be in effect, but it could be in effect for a while.
“Until we have no evidence of COVID-19 transmission within our community or minimal evidence of COVID-19 transmission, we have a vaccine available or an effective treatment – those would all be good reasons for us to rescind the order,” she said.
Along with ensuring people wear face coverings, all businesses must also ensure the availability of hand sanitizer at all entrances and exits. Businesses that fail to comply with these orders could face a $5,000 fine.
The City of Guelph said anyone concerned about a business not following the order can contact its bylaw office.
More information on the order can be found on Public Health’s website.