Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Announces Mandatory Mask Usage in Indoor Public Spaces in Simoce Muskoka

Date Published: 
July 7 2020

The following has been issued by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) on July 7, 2020

A letter written by Medical Officer of Health Charles Gardener on July 7th states that as of Monday, July 13, 2020, when you enter into a public indoor space a (e.g.. grocery store, community centre, shopping mall, hair salon, library, place of worship, etc.), or use a public transit service in Simcoe Muskoka, you will be required to wear a face covering.

"As Medical Officer of Health (MOH), the following are my instructions, pursuant to EMCPA, R.S.O. 1990 and associated Regulations (or as current), to all employers/persons responsible for businesses or organizations within the SMDHU service area:

  1. To the fullest extent possible, ensure effective measures are in place to maintain physical distancing amongst all employees and clients.
  2. Unless the nature of work requires the use of a medical mask, to the fullest extent possible, ensure all individuals wear a non-medical mask (for example, a face covering or a homemade cloth mask) when physical distancing is challenging or not possible.
  3. Implement screening practices for employees and members of the public, including requiring those who are ill to stay home and be advised to be tested for COVID-19.
  4. Promote excellent hygiene practices including hand hygiene, and cough and sneeze etiquette.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates the widespread use of face coverings by all persons decreases the spread of respiratory droplets. Public health experts also support the widespread use of face coverings to decrease transmission of COVID-19.

Furthermore, the following are my additional instructions to owners or operators of all businesses or organizations and of all public transit services in the SMDHU service area, effective 12:01 a.m. July 13, 2020:

  1. Have a policy in place to restrict persons from entering or remaining in the indoor public space of the business or organization or public transit vehicle if the said person is not wearing a face covering. Best efforts shall be made to only allow entry to customers wearing a face covering. The face covering must be worn inside the business or organization at all times, unless it is reasonably required to temporarily remove the face covering for services provided by the business or organization (such as eating or drinking).

A person shall be exempt from wearing a face covering in the business or organization if:

  • The person is a child under the age of two years; or is a child under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally and he or she refuses to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver;
  • The person is incapacitated and unable to remove their face covering without assistance;
  • Wearing a face covering would inhibit the person’s ability to breathe such as, but not limited to, during moderate to intense physical activity (such as running) or activity that would preclude its use (such as swimming);
  • For any other medical reason, the person cannot safely wear a face covering such as, but not limited to, respiratory disease, cognitive difficulties or difficulties in hearing or processing information.
  • For any religious reason, the person cannot wear a face covering. The policy should be enacted and enforced in “good faith” and should be used as a means to educate people on mask use in premises where physical distancing can be a challenge.
  1. Post appropriate visible signage indicating that face coverings are required inside the business or organization. Sample signage can be found on the COVID-19 workplace section of the SMDHU website here.
  2. Ensure that all employees are aware of the policy and are trained on the expectations of your business or organization.
  3. Where sufficient barriers are provided for employees/volunteers that protect the persons from close contact from a member of the public, a face covering or non-medical mask is not required.

It is also important to ensure the availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizer at all entrances and exits for the use of all persons entering or exiting the business or organization.

It is important to know that while we will commence with an educational and supportive approach, as per the EMCPA, those who do not comply with the above noted requirements may be fined. Individuals may be liable for a fine of $750 -$1,000 up to a maximum of $100,000, while corporations may be liable for a fine of up to $10,000,000 for each day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

With the right to reopen businesses and public settings in our communities, comes the critical responsibility to do so in a COVID-safe way. Much of the responsibility and opportunity for a successful reopening in our region lies in your hands. The decisions you take as you reopen will determine the course of the pandemic in our area and the public health actions necessary to control its spread.

A number of workplace resources are available on SMDHU’s COVID-19 website including a variety of sector specific guidelines: http://www.simcoemuskokahealth.org/Topics/COVID-19"

These additional public health measures remain in effect in all settings:

  • Maintain physical distancing of two metres from others
  • Stay home if ill and get tested for COVID-19
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Should you require additional information, please contact SMDHU: http://www.simcoemuskokahealth.org/HealthUnit/About/Contact.aspx or 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520).