P.E.I. to make masks mandatory in indoor public places

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King has announced new rules aimed at preventing or blunting the impact of COVID-19 in the province, although Tuesday's weekly briefing included the information that P.E.I. has no new cases. 

Premier says Island cannot afford to let down its guard against COVID-19

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says stronger pandemic rules will be put in place this week including mask wearing. (Ken Linton/CBC)

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says the province will make mask wearing mandatory in indoor public spaces in order to blunt the impact of COVID-19, although Tuesday's weekly briefing included the information that P.E.I. has no new cases. 

"We have seen compliance like no other jurisdiction," King said, adding that this is not the time to boast and Islanders must keep following pandemic protocols.

"However, things outside our province's borders and outside our Atlantic bubble are hitting a critical point," he said. "This isn't about the cases here; this is about the turbulence we are seeing across the country."

As of 12:01 a.m. Friday and continuing until Feb. 15, 2021 unless something significant changes, non-medical masks will be required in all indoor public places, King told the Island's weekly public health briefing.

This isn't about the cases here; this is about the turbulence we are seeing across the country.- PEI Premier Dennis King

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison later said masks will be required in stores and retail businesses, restaurants except when eating or drinking, sports buildings except when you are exercising, places of worship, workplaces open to the public, government buildings, taxis and public transit, and similar locations.

There will be exceptions for very young children and people who cannot wear masks for medical reasons. 

"Face guards and spit shields do not replace masks," Morrison said.

As of Friday, King said, additional information will be provided to anyone entering the province letting them know about the mask requirement and other ways of slowing the spread of the disease. Visitors will also be encouraged to download the COVID-19 alert app. 

The province is also considering more precautions for those visiting vulnerable people in nursing homes or hospitals, King said.

Islanders travelling home for Christmas must apply

Given the greater risk of spread outside the Atlantic bubble, Islanders who have to travel are encouraged to take precautions. And King said Islanders living outside the bubble who want to travel home for Christmas must apply by Dec. 1 indicating when they are entering and beginning to self-isolate for 14 days.

That step will be needed to ensure the province has enough staff on duty to contact those in isolation to see if they are feeling well and continuing to isolate.

'This may be the year to connect with loved ones virtually,' says Dr. Heather Morrison. (Kin Linton/CBC)

King noted that some other jurisdictions seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases have abandoned contact tracing due to the sheer volume of cases.

"I do not recommend that Islanders travel outside the province over the holidays," Morrison said, urging people to spend the holidays at home. "This may be the year to connect with loved ones virtually." 

New rules for rotational workers

Some Islanders will have to travel, though. And rotational staff who work outside the province will also have new requirements once they return to P.E.I.

"Our office recognizes that rotational workers are at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19," Morrison said.

"Rotational workers are to avoid entering public places until their 14-day self isolation period is complete."

That means rotational workers can't visit schools, stores, malls, banks, churches and restaurants. On top of that they wouldn't host anyone or visit from outside their household until their self-isolation period is complete Morrison said.

Those workers will still be tested multiple times during their isolation.

There are three active COVID-19 cases in the province. P.E.I. has seen a total of 68 cases, with no deaths and no hospitalizations.

Yet King warned: "We can't pretend we are immune."

More from CBC P.E.I.


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