Staff with the Northwestern Health Unit say they’re aiming for between 90 and 95 per cent of the community to be wearing a mask in enclosed public spaces, and are working to clarify their new mandatory mask policies.

The health unit’s Letter of Instruction required all owners and operators of enclosed public spaces to have a policy in place to ask all people coming into their space to wear a mask or face covering. It was issued on July 28, and took effect on August 17.

Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, stressed the new requirement is meant to increase mask use to prevent any further infections in our area, as well as to try to limit or prevent a second wave of the illness.

“Our goal is to make wearing a mask part of the new normal to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’d like to see 90 to 95 percent of people wearing masks or cloth face coverings in enclosed public spaces.”

“We know that wearing masks in public spaces is a significant change, and some people may simply refuse to wear a mask, putting owners and operators in a difficult position.”

Young Hoon says there are people who are exempt from wearing a mask, and they should not be refused service. People should not be asked to provide proof of exemption, and the policy should be enforced ‘in good faith’.

However, privately-owned businesses can legally refuse to serve anyone for any reason, as long as it doesn’t contravene the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

“Each business and organization should use common sense when enforcing its mask policy. NWHU reminds everyone that there are reasons that some people cannot wear a mask. The person might have a medical condition or disability that you cannot see, or may not be able to wear a mask for religious or cultural reasons.”

The NWHU says if you or your employees find yourself in a situation where they feel unsafe due to a confrontation over the mask policy, it’s best to contact police for assistance. However, Young Hoon says no confrontations about the policy have been reported to them at this point.

For more information:
Customers comment on mandatory masks
Masks still required in restaurants, NWHU