HPPH to issue instructions on use of face coverings in commercial establishments

Dr. Miriam Klassen, Medical Officer of Health for Huron and Perth counties, will issue formal instructions to employers to require the use of face coverings in all commercial establishments, effective Friday, July 17.

These instructions will require business owners to implement a policy for the use of non-medical masks or face coverings; including the expectation that people entering will wear a face covering.

The instructions are being issued by the Medical Officer of Health under the authority of the provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

As a result of this instruction, face coverings will be required in commercial establishments, which includes, but is not limited to retail and convenience stores; malls; enclosed farmers’ markets; and business offices with space open to the public.

A face covering means a medical or non-medical mask or other face coverings such as a bandana, a scarf or cloth that covers the mouth and nose. Certain exemptions apply, for example, based on medical circumstances.

“These additional instructions for commercial establishments that are open to the public build upon the diligent work many are already doing to ensure physical distancing and hand sanitizers,” says Dr. Klassen. “Face coverings are extra protection to prevent COVID-19 spread; they also send a message that the wearer wants to protect others.”

“As we work towards a successful Stage 3 re-opening, we also increase the risk of spreading the virus. Normalizing the use of masks helps reduce this risk and helps keep businesses and services up and running. We ask everyone to be kind and understanding when others can’t wear masks, and to physically distance from them.”

Operators of commercial establishments are expected to use their best efforts to implement their face covering policies. This means that signs and verbal reminders are used but there is not a requirement that a business must turn away the customer. This “good faith” enforcement framework is in line with Huron Perth Public Health enforcement, which builds on education and reminders.

The instructions will also remind employers of their ongoing responsibilities to maintain two metres distance between employees and clients, to screen employees and members of the public for COVID-19 symptoms, and to promote excellent hygiene practices including handwashing.

Official instructions will be shared with operators and posted to the Huron Perth Public Health website by Monday, July 13. Supplementary resources for operators of commercial establishments will also be posted to the HPPH website.

“These instructions will help as many people as possible to routinely use face coverings to protect one another,” says Dr. Klassen. “People in Huron Perth have done a great job of helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19; so as we prepare for Stage 3 with additional precautions, I ask everyone to be kind, patient, and respectful to one another. We must work together to stay healthy while resuming our businesses, services and activities in a new way.”