Kitchener-Waterloo

Masks must be worn in Guelph or Wellington County, medical officer of health says

The medical officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has issued an order that people in the health unit's coverage area must wear a mask at commercial establishments.

Commercial establishments must prohibit people from entering if they're not wearing masks

Passengers are pictured at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in Richmond, British Columbia on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. People are now required to wear non-medical masks when entering businesses in area covered by the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health unit. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

People must now wear a mask or face covering to go shopping or get a haircut in Guelph, Wellington County and Dufferin County, the medical officer of health says.

Dr. Nicola Mercer of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health issued an order this morning that says commercial establishments must make sure people entering and remaining on their premises wear a mask or face covering.

There are exceptions to the rule. It does not apply to:

  • Children under the age of two.
  • People who, when wearing a mask, find it inhibits their ability to breathe.
  • People with a medical reason for not wearing a mask.

"It must be worn at all times while in the establishment except to temporarily remove it for services that are provided ... so that would cover individuals, for example, who are going to have something to eat or drink," Mercer said in an interview with CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

A face covering could be a homemade mask, scarf or bandana.

Patios are outside and not subject to the requirements in the order.

'A new societal norm'

Mercer said they won't "police" the use of masks and people won't need to provide a medical note if they're not wearing a mask.

"This is really to be a new societal norm that should keep people safe and to allow us to safely reopen our economy," she said, likening it to signs that say "no shirts, no shoes, no business" or no smoking areas.

"We do have a long history of keeping others safe," she said. "By me wearing a face covering, I am protecting you. So if we all wear face coverings, the evidence supports that it decreases the spread of our respiratory droplets and that is a main source of the transmission of COVID-19."

Mercer says health officials have seen a decrease in mask wearing in recent weeks.

"Some establishments still have a fair bit of mask use but many places now, neither their staff nor the customers who are in these establishments are wearing masks and they are most definitely not physical distancing at all times," she said.

No expiry date

The areas covered by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health have been permitted to open under Stage 2 of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan. That means personal services like hairdressers and barbers, restaurant patios and splash pads can open as of Friday.

The order doesn't have an expiry date and will continue until Mercer sees significant changes in local COVID-19 cases.

"I would plan on rescinding it if a number of factors were in place. So the first would be if we had no cases of COVID-19 for two weeks or if we had very low rates of COVID-19 transmission," she said. "The others would be if we got an effective treatment or, if by chance, we got a vaccine in the near future, both of which would stop or treat the spread of COVID-19."

Another measure in the order from Mercer is that all businesses must have hand sanitizer available at the entrance and exits.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said masks are needed on patios. In fact, public health says because patios are outside, they are not subject to the requirements in the order.
    Jun 10, 2020 8:50 PM ET

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