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Kingston-area public health officials order mandatory mask-wearing in indoor public settings

Kingston-area public health officials order mandatory mask-wearing in indoor public settings
Kingston-area officials have ordered that masks be worn in any public place in the region, including grocery stores, libraries, buses and taxis, houses of worship, retail stores and hair and nail salons.

Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health for the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington region, has issued an order that will require masks or face coverings to be worn in any indoor public venue in the Kingston, Ont., region.

Mayor Bryan Paterson tweeted about the order Friday afternoon, saying it was in response to a recent uptick in active cases of COVID-19 in the region.

Read more: No direct link to GTA for Kingston, Ont., nail salon COVID-19 outbreak

Over the last week, the public health unit has traced 16 cases of the novel coronavirus back to Binh’s Nail Salon in the city, which served 500 customers from June 12 to 24.

Those clients were ordered to get tested for the virus immediately and self-isolate for 14 days no matter the results.

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Now, Moore has ordered that masks and face coverings be worn in any public place in the region, including grocery stores, libraries, buses and taxis, houses of worship, retail stores and hair and nail salons.

Patios will be excepted from the rule.

The order comes into effect Friday at midnight.

Public health says any establishment not enforcing mandatory face coverings could be fined up to $5,000 a day. Moore said enforcement will not start right away, but public health officials will be going out to the most high-risk establishments to educate them on the important of the order.

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“It’s a significant fine and we don’t want to use that fine until we’ve given our our community a chance to be familiar with this order,” Moore said.

Fines can also be applied to individuals refusing to wear masks but Moore said public health will be focusing mainly on establishments.

Moore said public health is also working with the United Way on a social media campaign and to ensure that vulnerable populations in the region have access to face coverings.

Paterson noted, as Moore has noted several times before, that Kingston’s second wave was not unexpected, especially as the community entered into Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan.

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The following individuals may be exempt from wearing a face covering:

  • a child under the age of two
  • a child under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally who refuses to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver
  • those who wearing a face covering would inhibit the person’s ability to breathe in any way
  • those who cannot safely wear a face covering, such as those with respiratory diseases, cognitive difficulties or difficulties hearing or processing information

The public health unit has released the following lists of establishments that will have to implement mandatory masking:

  • retail stores
  • convenience stores
  • malls or plazas
  • food premises
  • personal service settings
  • grocery stores or bakeries
  • churches or faith settings
  • farmer’s markets
  • areas of a mechanic’s shop, garage, or repair shop which are open to the public
  • libraries
  • community centres
  • private transportation operators such as bus, taxi or limo services
  • public transportation
  • day camps  and day cares (required for staff only)
  • any other business offices that are open to the public

The following establishments do not have to implement mandatory masking:

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  • schools
  • business offices that are not open to members of the public
  • professional offices where clients receive purchased services (like lawyer’s or accountant’s offices) that are not open to members of the public
  • hospitals
  • independent health facilities
  • offices of regulated health professionals

Moore noted that despite the uptick in cases, he has faith in the community that the spread of the virus will slow with mitigation measures like masking, and did not advise on any changes to Stage 2 reopening.

Minister of Health Christine Elliott said Friday that the outbreak in Kingston does not detract from Stage 2 reopening efforts.

“It doesn’t mean that we need to move back on anything that we’ve moved into Stage 2, but we are continuing to follow it to make sure that the appropriate precautions are taken,” Elliott continued.

More to come.