From the Mayor's Desk:
Masking Comes to Sioux Lookout and the Region Effective August 17th
Doug Lawrance - Mayor, Sioux Lookout
As masking comes to the municipalities in Northwestern Health Unit, including Sioux Lookout, the reaction of people will vary from resistance to relief. Given all the information from around the globe and within Ontario, none of us should be surprised that the use of masks inside businesses and public buildings is becoming mandatory. Mandatory masking will take effect as of August 17th. In the interim, the Health Unit is working on details that will help us all interpret and comply with the requirement.
With the introduction of mandatory masking the NWHU is doing what is being done in most jurisdictions around the world who are having success fighting the spread of coronavirus. That spread has thankfully been very limited in our region as the first wave made only a small ripple through our communities. In part that is because of our relative remoteness, in part it is because of the actions and advice from our public health professionals, and in large part it is because of the overall compliance and behavior at an individual and community level.
Evidence is showing that the spread of coronavirus has been limited in geographic areas where there are pro-active public health policies. In Ontario the Provincial Government has left decisions on masking regulation to be determined locally. Across the seven Public Health Units of Northern Ontario, the Medical Officers of Health, who meet on a weekly basis, are working towards a consistent approach to public health policies including policies related to face coverings in enclosed public spaces. Implementation of the policy in NWHU is a few weeks later than other Northern regions as consideration was given to our relatively low case numbers, relatively low population density, and time required to communicate to the public and support businesses and organizations.
As seen in other regions, concerns have been expressed about people who are unable to wear masks. The policy direction from NWHU does recognize a number of exemptions including those younger than the age of 2, children younger than the age of 5 who are unwilling to wear a mask, medical conditions where a person is unable to wear a mask, and those who are unable to apply or use a mask because of a disability. Northwestern Health Unit is not requiring that organizations or businesses require proof of exemption but to accept the information in good faith.
Individuals can also temporarily remove their mask in specific situations such as athletic or fitness activity, consuming food or drink, receiving services to the face that is otherwise covered by a face covering and for emergency or medical purposes. In such situations, it would be important to use other public health measures such as physical distancing or wearing personal protective equipment in order to avoid the spread of COVID 19.
Using a face mask is only one of many public health measures that are being used to control the spread of COVID 19. IN ADDITION, we must all remember to continue to keep 2 metres away from those outside of our social circle, wash or use hand sanitizer regularly, avoid touching our faces and stay home and get tested if sick with COVID 19 symptoms.
We have come from a complete closure to our current state of reopening. The masking requirement will help to allow the continuation of this reopening and help prevent stepping back into a state of closure. In the Northwestern Health Unit, including Sioux Lookout, we have had the luxury of being ahead of the wave. Let’s continue to take advantage of our situation. Let’s support and voluntarily comply with masking orders and help reduce the risk for each and every one of us.