North

'I feel a lot safer': Yukoners voice support for new mask regulations

Wearing a mask in public indoor places is now mandatory in Yukon, and people in the territory are adjusting to the new public health measure.

'I think it makes everyone feel a little bit safer,' says local store manager

Matthew Hitchcock, store manager at Coast Mountain Sports, says that employees and customers have been very receptive to the new mask rules. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC )

Wearing a mask in public indoor places is now mandatory in Yukon, and people in the territory are adjusting to the new public health measure.

Matthew Hitchcock, store manager at Coast Mountain Sports, said that all their employees were given masks and many customers were prepared and following the new rules on Tuesday. 

"It's that assurity you have that everyone's on the same page. Everyone's trying," he said. "I think it makes everyone feel a little bit safer."

The mask mandate was announced last month and came into effect on Tuesday, as case counts of COVID-19 have risen sharply in the past few weeks.

It's applicable to all people in Yukon over the age of five in indoor public spaces, unless they are able to provide an exemption.

Hitchcock said customers were very positive about wearing masks, and that there was a real sense of community with everyone wearing one.

"I think that everyone's of the understanding now that it's for the safety of everyone, and I think everyone's on the same page. It's been working well," Hitchcock said.

Those who had forgotten their masks were able to pick up a disposable one at the entrance of the store.

Maryann Etzel says she feels safer going shopping in Whitehorse now that people are wearing masks. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Maryann Etzel was out shopping on Monday, and said she felt more comfortable being out and about with others wearing masks.

"I feel a lot safer like I can go into the stores and not worry about people coughing and stuff, now they have masks."

Etzel said she thinks the rules should have been put in place a long time ago, to keep Yukoners safe in public spaces.

'Incredibly impressed with level of uptake'

Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, said at Tuesday's news conference that he had already seen more public acceptance toward masks within the first day they were made mandatory.

"I am incredibly impressed with the level of uptake in the population. And just walking through downtown [Monday] I was noticing, even outside, the degree of uptake of mask use was astounding," Hanley said.

Hanley said people may need time to adjust, but he expects an increase in uptake, with the goal of having "as close to 100 per cent of the population wearing masks as possible."

Graeme Tennant has already been wearing a mask while working at the library, and he said he has gotten used to it. He suspects others in the territory will adapt quickly as well.

"You get used to it and you go with it. 

"Everyone knows why it's being done and I have personally not encountered anyone who's really aggressive about it," he said. 

However, one thing Tennant is still getting used to is guessing people's facial expressions.

"It's kind of hard to judge when you just see people's eyes … are they smiling, are they sticking their tongue out at me with that mask on? I don't know!"

Graeme Tennant says he has already adapted to wearing a mask while working at the library. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

written by Danielle d'Entremont with files from Mike Rudyk

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