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Businesses Instructed To Mandate Face Coverings In Enclosed Public Spaces

Southwestern Public Health has instructed businesses to mandate face coverings in enclosed public spaces, which takes effect as of 11:59 pm tonight and will include a one-week grace period so businesses can prepare.

OXFORD/ELGIN/ST.THOMAS - Southwestern Public Health has issued a letter of instruction for all businesses in Oxford County, Elgin County and the City of St.Thomas to mandate face coverings in enclosed public spaces.

This takes effect at 11:59 p.m on July 30th and it will include a one-week grace period to allow businesses time to prepare. Policies must be in place on August 6th by by 12:00 a.m.

Two policies are to be implemented by all commercial establishments, public transit, and commercial service vehicles: one that requires everyone to wear face coverings while in public spaces and a second policy for public health measures in enclosed employee spaces that are not accessible to the public.

This second policy focuses on physical distancing, face coverings when physical distancing is not possible, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting and requiring staff to stay home if they're sick while advising they be tested for COVID-19.

SWPH also recommends municipalities pass bylaws for a consistent approach to face coverings across the region, subject to timing for local councils to meet.

Medical Officer of Health Dr.Joyce Lock says face coverings will help manage risks associated to COVID-19.

“Our response has evolved throughout this pandemic, yet it has always been centred on measures equal to local risks. Our confirmed cases have increased, most public spaces are open, and we have more opportunities to interact with each other. Face coverings will help manage these risks.”

Southwestern Public Health and its municipal partners will take an education-first approach when it comes to enforcement. However, individuals and corporations could face fines if they do not comply.

Dr. Lock says the hope is the community will follow the policies put in place, in order to protect others.

"Our hope is the community will share the responsibility of containing COVID-19 by following these policies, It is an incredibly caring act to wear a face covering because it protects other people from your germs. My mask protects you, and your mask protects me.”

The local health unit says certain individuals are exempt from wearing a face covering, including children under two years old or children under five if they cannot be persuaded to wear one by a caregiver, people with health conditions that make it difficult to wear a face covering, people in situations where a face covering would limit the ability to breathe (such as swimming) and people who cannot put on or remove a face covering without needing help.

Businesses cannot ask anyone for proof of exemption.

Dr. Lock, adds the face coverings are not intended to be a replacement for physical distancing.

“Please be understanding if someone cannot wear a face covering due to health conditions.” 

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