Face masks now mandatory across almost all of northeastern Ontario

Every health unit in northeastern Ontario has now issued orders for mandatory face masks.

Porcupine Health Unit, Timiskaming latest to issue recommendations on face coverings

As the province gets ready for Stage 3 reopening, the Timiskaming Health Unit and Porcupine Health Unit announced that face masks would be mandatory in public indoor spaces. (Andrew Lee/CBC/Radio-Canada)

Every health unit in northeastern Ontario has now issued orders to wear face masks in public.

The Timiskaming Health Unit and Porcupine Health Unit made separate announcements today, recommending that people wear protective face masks in public spaces, businesses and on public transit.

The Timiskaming Health Unit has so far reported 18 cases of COVID-19, while the Porcupine Health Unit reported the region's highest tally at 69 cases.

Public Health Sudbury and Districts — which has reported 67 cases —  was the first health unit in the region to issue the orders, July 3, followed by Algoma Health Unit July 10, which take effect on Friday. The North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit has also issued orders, which take effect July 24.

Dr. Glen Corneil, acting chief medical officer of health for the Timiskaming Health Unit, said the available data is making it clear that masks slow the spread of COVID-19.

He's also hoping the sight of people wearing masks indoors becomes part of the new societal norm.

"That's really what we're emphasizing...especially before the fall when we start seeing increases in viruses and especially influenza," Corneil said. "It needs to be standard practice. Now when you get out of your car you have a mask in hand, or a facial covering and you wear it when you go into a public or commercial establishment."

Dr. Glenn Corneil is the acting medical officer of health for the Timiskaming Health Unit. (Facebook/Timiskaming Health Unit)

Those commercial establishments "absolutely" can turn customers away for not wearing masks, Corneil said, but is hoping people feel a shared sense of responsibility to slow the spread of the virus. 

"We don't want fist fights at the door," he said. "We just want an understanding that everybody has a role in protecting not only themselves, but the community."

"We also know that if we can maintain how well we are doing that it helps our economy, helps our businesses stay open, and a lot of the feedback we've gotten from our businesses is they are keen to do this to help protect their staff and their businesses and their economic viability."

An added challenge, Corneil said, has been getting full buy-in for the measures from younger generations.

"Certainly a lot of what we're that a lot of the spread is people younger than 40, whether it's bar gatherings or beaches or maybe just not following the measures as strictly."

"But there's certainly a lot of attention and focus trying to get messaging out to younger people, that anybody can get sick from this, anybody can transmit it, and to protect society as a whole."


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