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Face coverings required in all indoor enclosed spaces in Hastings Prince Edward counties

UPDATE JULY 16 – Instructions for mandatory non-medical masks or face coverings in commercial establishments open to the public will remain in place at the current time. In addition, this instruction for mandatory face coverings has been broadened to include any enclosed indoor space that is open to the public, effective 12:01 am on Friday July 17. The complete instruction letter to establishments is available at hpePublicHealth.ca.

JULY 7 – Hastings Prince Edward Public Health has instructed that people are prohibited from entering commercial establishments without wearing a face covering – as of 12:01 p.m. Friday, July 10.

Prince Edward County Council reinforced the public health instruction, approving a bylaw to come forward to include all enclosed public spaces, on top of the HPEPH’s commercial establishments instructions. The bylaw would include places of worship, common areas, halls,  elevators, etc., and was extended to include farmers’ markets and stands where social distancing is not possible.

The County bylaw’s final wording is to be vetted by the CAO for legal implications and will be brought back to council for final approval.

Dr. Alexa Caturay, acting medical officer of health for Hastings Prince Edward counties, told council that commercial establishments in Prince Edward County must have a policy in place to prohibit persons from entering the premises if they are not wearing a face covering.

The face covering must be worn inside the premises at all times, unless it is reasonably required to temporarily remove the face covering for services provided by the establishment (example drinking in a tasting room at a winery). Exemptions for medical and personal requirements exist (medical reasons, young children).

Masks are not required for employees and owners of an enclosed public space in areas not designated for public access, or those within or behind a physical barrier (i.e. plexiglass).

The face coverings are in addition to social distancing and hand-washing recommendations.

“We must all remain vigilant as COVID-19 cases will re-emerge in our community eventually,” she said, adding HPEPH is re-engineering daily operations to ensure continuity and effective response when a second wave occurs.

To date, there have been 224 cases of COVID-19 in the Hastings and Prince Edward region, with 43 confirmed cases. No new cases have been reported since May 18 and HPE considers all to be medically resolved.

Until today, HPE Public Health has not mandated, but strongly urged, face coverings where physical distancing was difficult. Enforcement, at the beginning, will be in good faith, giving operators some time to get supplies.

Progressive enforcement, per the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, includes fines of $750 to $1,000 for an indivdual to a maximum of $100,000, or in the case of a corporation, not more than $10,000,000 for each day or part of each day on which the offence occurs.

“We encourage our partners to develop resilient, modernized service models in anticipation of increased COVID-19 activity,” she said. “Be proactive. It is important to use this time to develop the tools we will need in the future.”

Initial models, she said, anticipated this phase of the pandemic to last 18 to 24 months.

“We are at month six. Our reality is how we are going to live with this for a sustained period of time.”

“We must work to develop safe spaces in our communities, and balance the need for precaution with the requirements of everyday life. We recognize public concern, and encourage residents that efforts taken to date have been working.

This instruction from Public Health may change if/when the province moves into Stage 3.

Click here for the letter to businesses.

The Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit and its Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, issued a similar mandate Tuesday.

Retired County doctor Norah Rogers, co-owner of the Waring House, told council she was pleased with the measure, noting a scond wave of COVID-19 could be a disaster for the community. She also recommended the measure be extended to outdoor spaces, such as patios and farmers’ markets.

She noted patrons at the Waring House seem pleased protocols are in place.

“The spread (of COVID-19) is very real,” she said. “There is so much we can do to prevent an outbreak in our community… and it will make a big difference.”

While the Ontario government looks to end its stage of emergency, it announced this morning it will introduce legislation that allows the extension of some pandemic emergency orders over the next year.

Currently it can only issue emergency orders while the state of emergency is in place. That is set to expire July 15.

“While the declaration of emergency may come to an end shortly, the risk posed by COVID-19 is likely to be with us for some time to come,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “This new legislation would provide the government with the necessary flexibility to ensure select tools remain in place to protect vulnerable populations, such as seniors, and respond to this deadly virus.”

If the bill passes, it would cover the government moving parts of the province back to earlier stages of the pandemic lockdown if required; business openings and closures; limits on social gatherings and continue redeployment of health-care staff.

Ontario’s state of emergency was first declared March 17 and has been extended several times.

Jones states the legislation is needed to bridge the gap between public health measures required to initially flattend the virus cure; and those now needed as COVID-19 numbers improve.

“Ontario is on the path to recovery,” she said. “The danger posed by covid 19 will continue for months to come. This would support our continued efforts….easing certain restrictions where appropriate,” but not allow new emergency orders to be created.

The termination of the provincial emergency declaration, or the passage of the proposed act, would not preclude a head of council of a municipality from declaring that an emergency exists in any part of the municipality or from continuing such a declaration.

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