Peterborough Public Health encourages use of face masks but won’t make them mandatory yet

With no active cases of COVID-19, local medical officer of health prefers to rely on education

Woman wearing a black non-medical face mask while shopping

Peterborough’s Medical Officer of Health is adopting “an educational approach” to the wearing of face masks — as opposed to making the practice mandatory as many other health units in Ontario have already done or are considering.

During her weekly media briefing held Wednesday (July 8), Dr. Rosanna Salvaterra said she strongly recommends that residents wear a non-medical mask when attending appointments, accessing personal services, using transit, and entering an indoor establishment.

Should the decision to be made to go the mandatory route — as has just been done by the neighbouring Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit and Hastings Prince Edward Public Health — Dr. Salvaterra says that decision will be made in full consultation with municipalities and partner agencies.

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“We may, in fact, go to something stronger in Peterborough but I will do that in a collaborative way,” said Dr. Salvaterra, conceding that the wearing of masks by more people does provide “a visual cue” that reminds residents “that we are still living in the midst of a pandemic.”

“I am having an information session tomorrow (Thursday) evening with elected officials and staff of municipalities and First Nations. I really want to hear from them what they’ve been hearing from their residents, from their operators and business owners, to see whether or not there is a need to make it (face masks) a requirement. What kind of compliance are we seeing? Can we rely on an educational approach? How best would we suggest it be enforced?”

“There are challenges with making masks a requirement,” Dr. Salvaterra added. “There will be never be 100 per cent compliance. There are people who cannot wear a mask (due to health issues). You may not be able to tell who those people are. They don’t have a label. We need to be very careful not to stigmatize. We need to do this with eyes wide open.”

As of 4 p.m. Monday (July 7), the total number of positive cases in Peterborough city and county and Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations remained at 95, with no new cases reported over the past 17 days.

Of the positive cases, 93 have been resolved with two COVID-19 related deaths reported. For the seventh consecutive week, there are no institutional outbreaks reported.

Meanwhile, an estimated 18,550 people have been tested, almost 2,000 during the course of the past week. One of every eight residents in Peterborough Public Health’s catchment area has been tested — a testing rate of 12.5 percent.

Locally there have been 64 positive cases detected per 100,000 people compared to Ontario’s rate of 243 positive cases per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, the local incidence rate over the past week is zero positive cases per 100,000 people, again much lower than the provincial incidence rate of 7.7 cases per 100,000 people.

“We’re on the right track but we need to keep doing what we’re already doing,” said Dr. Salvaterra, adding “We’re getting there” when asked if the Peterborough region is ready for stage three of the province’s recovery plan. The Ontario government has not yet committed to a date for announcing stage three.

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As for residents letting their guard down as a result of a flattened curve locally, Dr. Salvaterra admits to being “personally afraid” of that happening.

“That’s why it’s important to make changes to the physical environment that will support the behaviour we need. Examples like widening the sidewalks (and) keeping tables on patios two metres away from each other.”

Dr. Salvaterra also announced that effective immediately, a workplace toolkit is available on Peterborough Public Health website (see below). It covers a number of topic specific to businesses and establishments re-opening safely in accordance with existing emergency measures.

Also participating in Wednesday’s media briefing was Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien.

 

PDF – Safely Reopening in Peterborough City & County – Toolkit for Establishments and Businesses – Peterborough Public Health
Safely Reopening in Peterborough City & County - Toolkit for Establishments and Businesses - Peterborough Public Health

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