Businesses start requiring masks as COVID-19 numbers increase
Some gyms, galleries and stores set their own policies requiring staff and customers to wear masks
Some Manitoba businesses aren't waiting for a directive from provincial health experts about mandatory masks in their establishments — they are implementing their own policies to make sure staff and customers are safe.
As of Monday, Aug. 10, all five Orangetheory Fitness gyms in the province require masks for patrons in common areas of the gym, but not at workout stations.
Megan Gabert, who owns the Orangetheory franchises in Sage Creek and Bridgwater, said Manitoba is falling in line with what corporate office is doing in provinces such as Alberta and Ontario. In addition to being consistent with the rest of the country, she is listening to what provincial health experts here are saying.
"Mainly if you can't physical distance, if that is more tricky, like when you are in a lobby or common area, wearing a mask is a good idea," said Gabert.
As people come in the lobby and take off their shoes, or put their coats on when they are leaving, it is mandatory they wear a mask because they are less than two metres apart. Once they get to their workout station they can hang up their masks and put them on a hook, which will be sanitized along with the rest of the gym equipment.
"We want to make sure we are providing as safe as an environment as humanly possible while still providing a great workout," said Gabert.
People are so relieved and happy to be back at the gym after a three-month lockdown, there hasn't been any push back, she said.
"Zero negative comments. I think people were anticipating this, that it could be mandatory soon with numbers going up. It's already happening at different stores and some school divisions. Everyone can see the writing on the wall. I do think people would have pushed back if we required it while they were working out," said Gabert.
Masks at art gallery, MEC, Walmart
Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin has not issued a directive on masks, only advising people to wear one when they can't physically distance from others. However, he's said masks could play a larger role in the fall, when flu season begins.
"Washing your hands [and] physical distancing is vital. Mask-wearing, certainly, when you can't physically distance, is important," Roussin said during a news conference Monday.
"We need to kind of live with this virus. Those people who are at risk of severe outcomes, they should be considering staying home more frequently, doing less that puts them at risk. But for the most part, we need to find ways to continue our lives, but cautiously."
As of Tuesday, the Winnipeg Art Gallery is implementing a mandatory mask policy. All guests are asked to wear a mask, scarf or bandana covering the nose and mouth while in public spaces in the gallery.
If patrons don't have one, they can purchase a disposable mask at the door for a dollar.
A few blocks away at Mountain Equipment Co-op on Portage Avenue, a mandatory mask policy has been in place since July 22. Manager Kaitlyn Peters said except for children under two and people with a medical exemption, all customers have to wear them.
As of this week, the majority of people are coming in with their own and willing to comply, Peters said.
As of Aug. 12, all Walmart stores in Canada require customers and staff to wear a mask.
Malls are still figuring out how they will move forward, with some stores asking customers to wear a mask.
Cadillac Fairview, which owns and operates Polo Park in Winnipeg, says it supports any precaution that would make shoppers and staff feel safe, but it wasn't clear in a written statement whether it was directing stores to make masks mandatory.
"A mask or facing covering is an additional measure we can take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep each other safe, and we are supportive of this guidance," the statement said.
Businesses that have already implemented their own mask policies say they won't be surprised if mandatory mask wearing is more prevalent across the province heading into the fall.