Northwestern Health Unit clarifying mask policy
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Communities across Canada and Ontario have implemented policies making it mandatory to wear a non-medical face covering in public areas, to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends wearing a non-medical mask in public places, especially where a safe physical distancing of two meters isn’t consistently possible like stores, shopping areas and public transportation.
The Northwestern Health Unit’s mandatory face mask policy has been in effect regionally since August 17.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kit Young-Hoon said that this requirement focuses on increasing the use of a face covering in the community. “Specifically, our Letter of Instruction requires that owners and operators of enclosed public spaces have a policy that they will ask all people coming into their space to wear a mask or face covering,” said Dr. Kit Young-Hoon.
The health unit clarified that privately owned businesses may legally deny service as long as their reason for doing so does not contravene the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or other legislation.
“Each business and organization should use common sense when enforcing its mask policy”, said Dr. Young-Hoon. NWHU reminds people to be considerate of others who may be unable to wear a mask or a face covering due to an underlying medical condition or disability that you cannot see, or for religious or cultural reasons. It is considered that any person who may be exempted from wearing a mask, as mentioned in the letter of Instruction, is covered under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or other legislation.
NWHU also recommends that those exempted from this policy should not be refused service or asked for proof of exemption. The policy must be implemented and enforced ‘in good faith’ and is to be used as a medium to educate and encourage people about wearing masks and to help increase the use of a face covering in enclosed spaces of the community.
Switching to the ‘new normal,’ a new way of living, going about work and interactions with other people, is seen as a significant change for everyone. “Some people may simply refuse to wear a mask, putting owners and operators in a difficult position,” said Dr. Young- Hoon. Businesses and organizations are not advised to take any action that may put their staff at a physical confrontation to enforce the mask policy with any customer. The aim of the policy is to increase public awareness and use of a face covering.
Dr. Young- Hoon said that the aim is to have 90 to 95 percent of the community wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces.
The health unit stated, “Businesses and organizations must do what they think is best, and in any situation where owners and operators or their staff feel they are in an unsafe situation, it’s best to contact police for assistance.”