Coronavirus: Peterborough Public Health continues to encourage mask-wearing but not mandate it

Click to play video 'Making masks mandatory still on table in Peterborough' Making masks mandatory still on table in Peterborough
Some municipalities surrounding Peterborough are making it mandatory to wear masks inside commercial businesses as of Monday. But so far, the Peterborough area isn't following suit -- yet.

Peterborough Public Health says face mask-wearing won’t be made mandatory during the coronavirus pandemic — at least not yet.

During Wednesday’s media conference, medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Salvaterra noted that while some Ontario health units have made face masks or coverings mandatory in public spaces, she’s not ready to make it a requirement for the health unit’s jurisdiction. The health unit serves Peterborough, Peterborough County, Hiawatha First Nation and Curve Lake First Nation.

As of Tuesday evening, there were no active cases in the region among the 95 confirmed cases. The last reported case was on June 20.

Read more: Coronavirus — Masks to be worn inside businesses in Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, Northumberland counties

“At this time, I continue to recommend residents wear a non-medical mask when attending appointments, when attending personal services, using transit or entering an indoor establishment,” she said. “I’m actively engaged in conservation with our local First Nations and our municipalities.

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“If the decision is made to make this a requirement, rather than a recommendation, it will be done collaboratively.”

She said she is also encouraging businesses to develop policies requiring staff and patrons to wear face masks when accessing their indoor spaces.

Salvaterra reiterated that wearing a cloth mask will protect others in enclosed or indoor places — especially if you have COVID-19 or are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic.

She said the health unit is taking an educational approach to encourage more people to wear masks. A “conversation” with all municipalities will be necessary if a mask-wearing policy were to be implemented.

“We may, in fact, go to something stronger in Peterborough. I will do that in a collaborative way with our municipalities and First Nations if they feel it is necessary here,” she said.

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Salvaterra admitted that she doesn’t expect 100 per cent compliance even if face masks are required and that there would be “challenges” making it a requirement.

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“There are people who cannot wear masks or should not wear masks,” she noted, referring to people with medical or physical conditions, youth under age two or children age five or under — either chronologically or developmentally — and refuse to wear a mask or cannot be persuaded.

“I caution everyone to be careful not to judge or stigmatize someone who may appear to be not compliant,” she said. “We have worked so hard to get — and subsequently keep — case counts low here in Peterborough. I wish to applaud local businesses who have championed the requirement for masks in their establishments in order to create a safe environment for staff and guests.”

Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien echoed the educational component for mask-wearing and is also encouraging residents to wear masks. She says the city will have to review multiple facets of the policy, such as transit use.

“If we were to make masks mandatory on transit — if someone doesn’t have one, are they denied transit?” she said. “There are some logistical questions we’re talking about.”

Reopening safely toolkit

The health unit is providing a toolkit to support business owners in safely operating their establishments. Visit the health unit’s website for details

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The toolkit contains an easy-to-use checklist that covers important infection prevention and control considerations that each business must evaluate in the context of their space and setup, said Salvaterra.

Weekly report

In its weekly report issued Wednesday, the health unit reports that approximately 18,550 people have been tested for the coronavirus — approximately one in eight residents in the health unit’s jurisdiction. It’s an increase of 2,000 since last Wednesday.

Other health unit data:

  • The incidence rate is 64 cases per 100,000 residents versus Ontario’s 243 cases per 100,000 residents (up from 228 last week).
  • Case rate for last week: Zero versus Ontario’s 7.7 cases per 100,000 residents.
  • Women make up 56 per cent of the 95 confirmed cases; men 44 per cent.
  • Fifty-seven of the 95 cases involve people in the 20-59 age range.
  • Source of exposure: 51.6 per cent of cases are the result of contact with a known case; travel – 27.4 per cent; community transmission – 21.1 per cent of cases.
  • No current outbreaks at long-term care homes for the seventh consecutive week. There have been 15 cases at long-term care homes and three cases at retirement homes.
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