Mandatory masks: ‘we support that initiative,’ says City of Kawartha Lakes mayor

Stores open for business with coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions in downtown Lindsay, Ont. Paul Dinsdale/Global News

As of Monday, face masks or coverings will be mandatory for anyone entering a commercial establishment in the City of Kawartha Lakes.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPRDHU) made the announcement late Tuesday that it will be requiring masks for indoor commercial spaces for its jurisdiction, which also includes Northumberland and Haliburton Counties, to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

City of Kawartha Lakes Mayor Andy Letham told reporters on his weekly teleconference Wednesday that he had approached the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to see what the local appetite was for mandatory masks and was informed the health unit already had a plan in the works.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Masks to be worn inside businesses in Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, Northumberland counties

“What kind of feedback were we getting or what was the trigger point through our EOC to make masks mandatory on a municipal level … that’s when I was informed our medical officer health was going to put a special order in place for the health unit,” he said.

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“If they were going to do it, we will support that initiative and won’t have to make the decision at a local political level.”

Letham said Tuesday during a virtual meeting of the economic recovery task force that all tourism-related messaging from the municipality must include the fact that masks will be mandatory as of Monday morning. He reiterated that point on the media teleconference.

“I don’t think it will be effective if we have a patchwork of municipalities making it mandatory, but then you cross a street or highway into a different district and it’s not,” he said.

“We want you to come up here.  We know you’re up here.  We’re happy you’re out having some fun, but we’re going to continue to ask you to do that safely and respectfully and as of Monday that will include wearing a mask anywhere indoors in a commercial or retail establishment open to the public.”

READ MORE: The faster a country required masks, the fewer coronavirus deaths it had: study

Letham said he felt residents and visitors were behaving, with many wearing masks when shopping locally.

He pointed to the fact that to-date there have been no Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) related charges in the City of Kawartha Lakes.

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“I have personally noticed more people wearing masks in the last few weeks than before.  My wife went into Sobey’s and said nearly everyone was wearing masks.  When they go into an establishment, they will have to wear them, but they can take them off when they go back outside, if they choose,” he said.  “I do notice a lot of people wearing them outside too.  I think it’s more of an awareness thing over the last few weeks than it was previous to that.”

The health unit reported no new cases of coronavirus Tuesday, maintaining the overall cases at 202.

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“Although we have seen a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in our area, we want to be sure we continue to see a decrease as we move towards the reopening of more businesses within the province,” stated HKPRDHU medical officer of health Dr. Lynn Noseworthy.

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“We need to do everything we can to avoid the chance of a resurgence in activity that we have seen in some other places.”

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The use of masks will be required while the provincial Emergency Order remains in force or until such time that Noseworthy lifts the new safety rule.

An establishment would include a mall or other structure containing commercial premises, namely: retail stores, convenience stores, restaurants, personal services settings, grocery stores and bakeries, gas stations, indoor farmers’ markets, areas of mechanics’ shops/garages/repair shops which are open to the public.

Noseworthy says wearing a mask is about protecting other people, and reduces the likelihood that someone could unknowingly spread the virus to another person.

“Provincially, we have seen a number of asymptomatic cases,” she said.

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“This is just another step in doing what we can to protect our family, friends and neighbours in our communities.”

READ MORE: Mask myths, debunked: No, wearing a mask won’t ‘shut down’ your immune system

The health unit notes there can be exemptions to the mask-wearing policy, including:

  • children under the age of 2 years;
  • a child under the age of 5 years either chronologically or developmentally and he or she refuses to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver;
  • a person who is incapacitated and unable to remove their mask without assistance;
  • persons with other medical reasons who cannot safely wear a non-medical mask or face covering, such as, but not limited to: respiratory disease, cognitive difficulties or difficulties in hearing or processing information;
  • persons with religious reasons, whereby the person cannot wear a non-medical mask or face covering or cannot cover the face in a manner that would properly control the source.

The health unit says it will be taking a progressive enforcement approach to ensure compliance, with a focus on education.

For more information about the instructions requiring non-medical mask use or face coverings, visit the health unit’s website or call at 1-866-888-4577 ext. 5020.

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–With files from Greg Davis

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