With the Peterborough region’s mandatory face covering order set to go into effect next Saturday (August 1), Peterborough Public Health says it is taking an educational approach to compliance — but an enforcement mechanism is available as an option.
“Our hope is this is going to be implemented in good faith and people will strive to do the right thing,” said Julie Ingram, Peterborough Public Health’s manager of environmental health, during the health unit’s weekly media briefing on Wednesday (July 22) — which was the health unit’s final regularly scheduled weekly briefing on the pandemic.
“When there are circumstances where people refuse to wear a face covering for their own reasons, we’re not asking businesses to restrict entry but rather provide a reminder that it is mandatory and there is a directive in effect,” she added.
“If we have situations where owners and operators are not complying with the directive — there’s no signage, there’s no sanitizer or they’re not doing their due diligence — there are enforcement actions that can be taken under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that we will consider if needed,” Ingram said.
Ingram noted public health inspectors are visiting commercial establishments to ensure owners and operators are aware of the directive and associated requirement, which goes into effect in less than two weeks.
Asked if a similar mandate for individuals to wear masks — and subsequent enforcement action taken against those who refuse — is being considered, Peterborough’s medical officer of health Dr. Rosanna Salvaterra said “No, not at this point.”
At the final scheduled weekly media briefing, Dr. Salvaterra spoke mostly about the mandatory face covering requirement, noting it has been met “with a strong interest” by residents.
“With stage three now here, more businesses are opening, restaurants and bars are now seating people indoors … this is the right time to take this extra step of moving from a strong recommendation to a requirement,” she said.
“We consulted with municipal councils and staff and we heard that they prefer a consistent approach across all of Peterborough. That is why I have issued instructions under my authority as per the provincial emergency orders, rather than expect local councils to pass individual bylaws as has happened in some jurisdictions.”
“(Wearing a face covering) is a courtesy that you extend to others. You are keeping your droplets to yourself. By making non-medical masks an expectation, I by no means expect to see 100 per cent of shoppers wearing face coverings, but I do expect to see (store) staff wearing masks.”
Recognizing there are those who cannot wear a face covering due to an pre-existing health condition, Dr. Salvaterra adds “Rather than shame and blame, I’m asking that we give each other the benefit of the doubt.”
“I believe no one should be turned away if unable to wear a mask due to an exemption. It remains up to individual business owners and operators to refuse entry if they wish as per their rights under the Trespass To Property Act. However. I’m hoping for a respectful implementation of my directive. I am trusting individuals to do what they can to protect themselves and others.”
With the Peterborough region six days along in stage three of Ontario’s recovery plan, the latest COVID-19 numbers do provide good reason for optimism moving forward.
As of 4 p.m. on Wednesday (July 22), the total number of positive cases in Peterborough city and county and Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations remains at 95 with no new cases reported since June 20 — a period of 32 days.
Of the positive cases, 93 have been resolved with two COVID-19 related deaths reported. For the ninth consecutive week, there are no institutional outbreaks reported.
Protect each other and #StopTheSpread, learn about Face Covering BENEFITS. Visit www.peterboroughpublichealth.ca/novel-coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-mandatory-face-coverings/
Meanwhile, an estimated 20,500 people have now been tested, including 1,200 during the course of the past week. One of every seven residents in Peterborough Public Health’s catchment area has been tested — a testing rate of 13.8 per cent.
Locally there have been 64 positive cases detected per 100,000 people compared to Ontario’s rate of 256 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 6.7 cases per 100,000 people.
Also participating in Wednesday’s media briefing were Peterborough mayor Diane Therrien, Selwyn mayor and Peterborough board of health chair Andy Mitchell and Hiawatha First Nations Chief Laurie Carr, the latter noting Hiawatha voluntarily remains in stage two with advancement to the next stage still a few weeks off (Curve Lake First Nation has made the same decision).