As certain regions across the province are counting down to the second phase of the economic re-opening, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has asked for one thing from all area businesses opening on Friday: have everyone put a mask on. Under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, Dr. Nicola Mercer is insisting that everyone out and about on Friday, and beyond, cover their face for the sake of the public.
“Moving our region to Phase 2 is an important next step,” said Dr. Mercer in a media statement. “As we move to reopen, we must always look to balance the economic needs of our region with the health and safety of the public.”
The order requires that all persons who own or operate a commercial establishment in Guelph, Wellington County, and Dufferin County bar anyone from their premises if they’re not wearing a face covering, and to make sure that everyone in the establishment keeps their face covered at all times. Exceptions are made for children under two years old, and for people with a medical reason to not wear a mask or if it inhibits a person’s ability to breath. People are however allowed to remove their mask if they’re eating or drinking, or using some other service provided by the business.
“The best available evidence indicates face coverings reduce the possibility of transmission of COVID-19,” added Dr. Mercer. “By ensuring we can move to Phase 2 in the safest way possible, we are all making an investment in a safer community.”
The announcement has caused some confusion among Guelphites who for months have been going into essential businesses with the option of not wearing a mask. Last week, Guelph Transit announced that they would be allowing more than 10 people to ride a bus at any one time, but while they insisted that transit users wear a mask, they are not requiring that people wear a mask while riding the bus.
“As we move to reopen more parts of the economy, it is important to balance getting the economy moving with protecting the public’s health,” said public health spokesperson Danny Williamson on the order’s timing. “More of us going to more places creates greater opportunities to spread the virus.”
So far, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph’s is the only health authority issuing a mandatory mask order for local commercial establishes. It should be noted that one does not need a medical-grade mask. The City of Guelph’s website notes that acceptable options include a scarf, bandana, homemade fabric mask or a medical mask that covers their nose and mouth.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 413 cases of COVID-19 in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph. There have been four new cases in the 24 hours previous, while the number of recovered cases now stands at 298. The number of fatalities from COVID-19 in the area remains at 35, and has remained unchanged for the last two weeks.