Mask wearing mandatory in enclosed public spaces
THE COUNTY, Ontario - Medical Officers of Health from Eastern Ontario Health Unit; Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit; Renfrew County and District Health Unit and Ottawa Public Health have announced a regional approach to the use of masks in their respective jurisdictions.
Each public health unit will be invoking a directive under the province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that requires individuals to wear a mask in certain enclosed public spaces. Under the directive, the person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting. The EOHU’s Directive takes effect as of July 7th at 12:00 A.M.
“Wearing a mask or face covering in indoor public spaces accessed by the public adds another level of protection against the spread of COVID-19” states Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU. “There is scientific evidence that wearing a mask is an effective way of preventing the spread of COVID-19, and it’s another measure we are adding to our arsenal as we get ready for stage 3 of reopening and back-to-school in the fall.”
The decision to implement a mandatory masking policy made by the 4 health units in Eastern Ontario follows the initiative of other health units across the province and will decrease the odds of having to shut down the economy again due to outbreaks of COVID-19. “Mandatory masks will help support businesses and service providers throughout the region as they resume operations by reducing the risk of an outbreak in their workplace, adding another layer of protection for their employees, and increasing customers’ confidence that they can enjoy a safe return to shopping and other activities,” says Dr. Roumeliotis.
The new Directive is in effect as of July 7th. However, there will be an enforcement grace period of one week until July 14th at 12:00 A.M. The EOHU will use an educational approach focused on signage in premises, the training of staff on masking policies, and notifying customers of the Directive. The masks or face coverings used will have to securely cover the nose, mouth and chin. Exemptions will be made for individuals who cannot wear a mask due to health concerns or other valid reasons.
“Enclosed Public Space” means indoor public spaces accessed by the public.
These include but are not limited to:
- restaurants, cafés, cafeterias, banquet halls
- retail establishments and shopping malls
- churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, or other places of worship
- libraries, museums, art galleries, recreational facilities, bingo halls, community centres and halls, cinemas, theatres, concert venues, special event venues, convention centers, or other similar entertainment, cultural, or leisure facilities
- sports facilities, sports clubs, gyms, yoga studios, dance studios, and stadiums
- common areas of hotels, motels, or short-term rental premises such as lobbies, elevators, meeting rooms, rest rooms, laundry rooms, gyms, and kitchens
- public and private transportation including taxis and rideshare services
- common areas of premises under the control of a regulated health professional under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 18, as amended, such as waiting rooms
- common areas of hospitals and independent health facilities such as lobbies, food courts and retail establishments
- spas, hair salons, barbers, nail salons, and other personal service settings that are subject to health and safety protocols provided by the Province of Ontario during the provincial emergency
- municipal public spaces
The following are NOT considered an “Enclosed Public Space”:
- Spaces subject to provincial and/or local public health guidance:
- Schools under the Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2, as amended
- Child care centres and providers governed by the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014, S.O. 2014, c. 11, as amended
- Day camps
- Offices not open to the public including professional offices where clients receive services not open to public (e.g. lawyer, accountant)
“Mask” means: a cloth (non-medical) mask, medical mask or other face coverings (e.g. a bandana, scarf or cloth), for filtering respiratory droplets that securely covers the nose, mouth, and chin and is in contact with the surrounding face without gapping.
“Operator” means the person who controls, governs, directs, or is responsible for the activity carried on within the Enclosed Public Space and includes the person who is actually in charge at any particular time.
Duty of operator
- Every Operator of an Enclosed Public Space shall adopt a policy to ensure that no member of the public is permitted to enter or remain in the public areas of the Enclosed Public Space unless he or she is wearing a Mask in a manner that covers their nose, mouth and chin.
- Children under two years of age, or children under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally who refuse to wear a Mask and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver
- Individuals with medical conditions rendering them unable to safely wear a Mask, including breathing difficulties or cognitive difficulties
- Individuals who are unable to apply or remove a Mask without assistance, including those who are accommodated under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) or who have protections under the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.19, as amended
- A person who is employed by or is an agent of the Operator of an Enclosed Public Space and:
- is in an area of the premises that is not designated for public access, or
- is within or behind a physical barrier (e.g., Plexiglas)
- Implementation of the policy should be enacted and enforced in “good faith” and should be primarily used as a means to educate people on Mask use in public spaces.
- No person shall be required to provide proof of any of the exemptions set.
- The policy shall:
- Exempt the persons set out in Subsection 1 from the obligation of wearing a Mask.
- Ensure that all persons working at the Establishment are trained in the requirements of the policy.
- Require that employees and agents wear a Mask when working in the public areas of the premises unless the employee or agent is within or behind a physical barrier.
- Require that employees and agents provide a verbal reminder to any customer entering the premises without a Mask that the customer should be wearing a Mask.
- Require, for customers in a premises removing their Mask for extended periods of time, a verbal reminder to that customer of the requirement to wear a Mask under these instructions.
- Permit the temporary removal of a Mask where necessary for the purpose of:
- Receiving services; or
- While actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities and dining.
- Ensure the availability of alcohol-based hand rub at all entrances and exits for the use of all persons entering or exiting the establishment.
- Every Operator of an Enclosed Public Space, upon request, shall provide a copy of the policy to any person authorized to enforce it.
- The Operator of an Enclosed Public Space shall post, at every public entrance to the premises, prominent and clearly visible signage that contains the following messages:
"All persons entering or remaining in these premises must wear a mask that securely covers the nose, mouth, and chin as required by the Directive issued under the province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act."
Mask Wearing to Complement Other Measures to Limit Spread of COVID-19
The EOHU reminds residents that while wearing a mask or face covering can help prevent the spread of infectious respiratory droplets, it’s not a substitute for physical distancing and handwashing. “In addition to wearing a mask, it’s also very important to continue practising good hand hygiene and, when possible, to keep a distance of at least 2 metres from other people when you’re out in public,” says Dr. Roumeliotis. He adds that information on proper mask use as well as other tips for protecting yourself against COVID-19 are available on the EOHU’s website at www.EOHU.ca/coronavirus or the Government of Ontario’s website at covid-19.ontario.ca.