Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Residents in northwestern Ontario are observing the indoor mandatory mask-wearing policy, according to Dr. Kit Young-Hoon, medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit.
Young-Hoon said the health unit is not aware of anything confrontational that has happened, and that they are happy to report that most businesses have no problems with their customers wearing masks.
“All enclosed public spaces must have a policy asking that people coming into that place wear a mask and reminding them to wear a mask if they forgot,” Young-Hoon said.
A mandatory indoor mask-wearing policy was in place on Aug. 17 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Individuals with health conditions that prevent them from wearing masks are exempt from this policy.
“We ask that businesses and organizations use common sense around enforcement of this policy,” Young-Hoon said. “Some people cannot wear a mask because of medical exemptions. So these individuals do not need to wear a mask, should not be refused service and they do not need to show proof of exemption.”
Young-Hoon explained that the purpose of the mask-wearing policy is to normalize or encourage broad use of masks or face covering across the entire population. She added that it is impossible for everyone to wear a mask because there are people with exemptions.
“There’s evidence that if we reach a level of 90 to 95 per cent compliance, that has a benefit for an entire population in reducing the transmission of COVID-19,” Young-Hoon said.
“Requiring people to stay home when they have a medical exemption from masks is not necessary because you have to think about the balance of these individuals in an entire population. If a small portion of individuals are exempt and they can’t wear a mask, then that does not prevent the benefit of mask wearing. If there is widespread use of mask wearing up to 95 per cent, there will be a benefit for the population.”
Individuals should assume that COVID-19 is in their community and practise good public health measures such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, good hand hygiene, avoid touching your face and stay home when you are sick, Young-Hoon said.
“We still have to maintain vigilance when it comes to COVID-19 and following public health measures,” she added.