Nfld. & Labrador

Masks to be mandatory indoors in public starting Aug. 24 in N.L.

On Monday, as the province marked one week without a new case of COVID-19, N.L.'s chief medical officer said a new rule applies to people five years and older.

Province marks 1 week without a new case of COVID-19

People will be required to wear non-medical masks at all indoor public spaces in Newfoundland and Labrador, starting Aug. 24. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Non-medical masks will be mandatory for people in indoor public spaces in Newfoundland and Labrador, starting Aug. 24. The new rule applies to people aged five and older. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald made the announcement Monday, in addition to releasing details for the return-to-school plan for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.

Non-medical face masks help protect against the spread of COVID-19, Fitzgerald says in a video on the provincial government's website Monday, showing kids how to safely put on their masks.

"The mandatory use of non-medical masks is another important step to further protect our families and communities, as when worn properly they can help to reduce the spread of COVID-19," said Fitzgerald. 

"Please remember, though, that wearing a non-medical mask in the community is not a substitute for physical distancing and proper hand washing." 

The provincial government later on Monday updated its COVID-19 website with a complete list of places where wearing a mask will be made mandatory. 

Areas where masks will be mandatory include:

  • Public transit, including buses, taxis, car services and public areas of ferries.
  • Retail businesses.
  • Common areas of an office building, including lobby, elevators, reception areas, conference rooms, washrooms and break rooms.
  • Places where municipal and government services are offered.
  • Personal-care businesses, including hair salons, tattoo shops and tanning salons.
  • Animal daycares and grooming businesses.
  • Shopping malls and community markets.
  • Places of worship.
  • Funeral homes.
  • Theatres, performing arts venues, cinemas and indoor entertainment businesses.
  • Rental rooms, community centres and other venues used to host gatherings.
  • Sports-related clubhouses.
  • Community museums or historic sites.
  • Bingo halls.
  • Fitness centres, dance studios or yoga studios.
  • Arenas and places where sports are practised.
  • Restaurants and bars.
  • Common areas, including elevators, in hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, rental cabins or cottages.
  • Post-secondary schools, including colleges, universities and trade schools.

The list of places where masks will be made mandatory includes some exemptions. Children under the age of five and people with physical or mental health conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask will be exempt, as will be people during some medical treatments. People showing identification will not require masks. 

Some workplaces — under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations, as well as any workplace specific health and safety plans — will also not require masks. Workers must still wear masks when they are in a publicly accessible lobby, reception area, hallway, stairway or elevator.

Seated areas in classrooms of a post-secondary schools, places of worship, restaurants, food courts and bars or where cultural or entertainment services are offered will also not require a mask as long as there is space for two metres of physical distancing and people wear masks while moving around those spaces. 

Monday also saw the release of the back-to-school plan for thousands of students in the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District. While masks will not be mandatory in the classroom, they will be required in certain parts of the school for certain grades

Previously, Fitzgerald and public health officials had encouraged people to wear masks in public spaces, as well as to practice physical distancing, but they were not mandatory until Monday's announcement.

'It's a good idea'

The new rule may be a bigger adjustment for others. 

At Posie Row in downtown St. John's, all staff and customers have been required to wear a mask since the store reopened June 8.

Jane Manuel, manager of Posie Row in St. John's, says she thinks making masks mandatory for indoor public spaces is a good idea. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

"We have two buildings, three entrances and a number of shops housed within our space, and the idea of trying to socially distance or monitor the number of people coming and going just seemed laborious and out of our control in a way," manager Jane Manuel told CBC Radio's On The Go on Monday afternoon, just a few hours after Fitzgerald announced the new regulation. 

Manuel said she and other staff felt a mandatory mask rule was eventually coming and wanted to get out in front of it. She hopes others embrace it. 

"This has allowed us, actually, to relax a little bit, to feel like we have a bit of control and comfort in our workspace, and I think that if people look at it that way as something that can give them a little bit of agency when they are out in the world rather than as a burden, though that is the case for some, but I think overall its a good idea," she said. 

No new cases

Also Monday, Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases of COVID-19.

That makes one week without notching any additional cases of the virus. 

There are two active cases, in the Eastern Health region of the province: a male and a female, both between the ages of 20 and 39.

The province's total COVID-19 caseload remains 268. So far, 263 people have recovered from the virus, and there have been three deaths.

A total of 28,668 people have been tested for COVID-19 — an additional 81 since Sunday. 

While Monday marks seven consecutive days without a new case, it's also significant as it marks the unveiling of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District's back-to-school plan for thousands of K-12 students. 

You can find full details and cover on that plan here.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go

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