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Coronavirus: Durham Region mandating masks in indoor spaces

Coronavirus: Durham Region makes masks mandatory in indoor spaces
Non-medical masks will be mandatory while in public and enclosed spaces in Durham Region. Officials say face coverings will be required while the Provincial Emergency Order remains in effect.

The region of Durham is joining other GTA municipalities and making masks mandatory in some spaces — a step that area mayors have been pushing for over the last few weeks.

Durham’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Kyle, says it’s a pre-emptive step that will put the region in a better position in case there is a second wave.

“Now that we can think about and prepare for the second wave, it seems prudent for us to supplement our strong recommendation of wearing a mask,” says Dr. Kyle.

The region, along with the province, has seen a dramatic drop in new cases over the past few weeks. Now with a mandatory mask rule in place as of July 10, officials hope the new measures will help keep the numbers down and continue to control the spread of the virus.

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“We’re exiting the first wave, and our focus up to now has been on case and contact management,” says Kyle.

Read more: Ottawa, surrounding regions make indoor masks mandatory as of Tuesday

“This is another source of protection and a cautionary measure that our numbers stay low, the outbreaks are minimized and it’s an additional measure.”

Residents can use fabric masks or other types of face coverings. This will be mandated for all members of the community while they are in commercial establishments and other indoor spaces.

“These are confined spaces,” says Dr. Kyle. “Unlike the outdoors, there are limitations in social distancing, particularly the nature of business and the traffic in and out.”

Masks or face coverings will be mandatory in retail and convenience stores, shopping malls, libraries and community centres. Business offices open to the public are also included on this list. The policy will require owners to implement their own mandate if there isn’t one already in place. Dr. Kyle says the safety measures will not only keep people safe but also create a safe environment for shoppers.

Read more: Council to decide on mandatory masks in Waterloo Region Monday

“We’d like to think that this will enhance consumer acceptance and consumer confidence,” says Dr. Kyle.

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The region joins most of the GTA in making the rule. Area mayors like Oshawa’s Dan Carter have been pushing for the change. He says although some people may not like it, he hopes residents will comply if they can.

“If you can wear a mask, please try and wear a mask,” says Mayor Carter. “It’s the best-recommended practice to be able to cut down on infections.”

After businesses opened all over the United States, Mayor Carter says it’s imperative we take things seriously and don’t repeat mistakes made there.

“We’ve seen in Florida where there has been a pushback where the infection rate has gone up,” says Carter. “This is a health issue, this is a moment that is going to be uncomfortable, but this is for the well-being of everybody.”

Dr. Kyle says the policy will be enforced in “good faith”, but says if there are any problems they will deal with issues on a case by case basis. He says primarily their goal is to educate the importance of wearing the mask.

“We will use progressive enforcement, education and awareness primarily.”

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