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Supporting Stage 3: Mandatory Masks and Face Coverings

Timmins, Ontario - Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Porcupine Health Unit welcomes the move into Stage 3 in the Ontario government’s COVID-19 reopening plan. According to Dr. Lianne Catton, Medical Officer of Health, “This is good news, as many have found the last few months increasingly difficult. However, we are able to move forward due to the commitment to the public health measures in place. This is not a green light; it’s amber — proceed with caution. That’s why today, I am announcing the additional requirement of mandatory masks or face coverings in enclosed public spaces under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA), R.S.O. 1990.”

“As more businesses open and people interact more, the risk of a rapid increase in cases, and outbreaks is even greater,” Dr. Catton notes. “Ongoing dedication to the measures that have enabled us to open is critical to ensuring we stay open. There is increasing evidence supporting the use of masks in enclosed spaces as an important added measure to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

Starting next Thursday, businesses in the Porcupine Health Unit area will require all members of the public and employees who enter or remain in an enclosed public space of the business or organization to wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin without gaping. “Enclosed public space” means indoor spaces of businesses and organizations which are accessed by the public. There will be exemptions to the policy, including children under two years; medical conditions such as difficulty breathing, or those who cannot remove their masks without assistance. People will not be expected to provide their reason nor any proof of exemptions.

Although this order does not come into effect until next week, in order to give local businesses the opportunity to prepare, the health unit urges all community members to start wearing a non-medical mask or face covering inside public spaces. Get a mask, make a mask, use a scarf from your closet, and learn how to safely wear and remove them. There are instructional posters and videos available in French and English on the porcupine health unit website.

Dr. Catton urges all members of the public to be patient and understanding through the transition, saying that, “the Porcupine Health Unit is committed to helping local businesses reopen and remain open safely. We will be working with all members of the business community throughout the area to support them and provide guidance during this period.”

Dr. Catton noted that, “employers and the members of the public — who have really done an incredible job to get us to this point — will have to be patient and stay committed those public health measures that should, by now, sound familiar.” In addition to the new face covering requirement, those include washing your hands frequently and well; covering your coughs and sneezes; keeping physical distance between yourself and others outside — and wearing a non-medical mask or face covering when that isn’t possible; not touching your face; keeping commonly touched surfaces clean; and staying home when you’re not well. “I know many people feel their lives have been put on hold for too long,” Dr. Catton concluded. “If we proceed with caution and care into Stage 3, we can reduce the future impact of COVID-19 in all our communities.”

The Porcupine Health Unit is located in Northeastern Ontario, serving the entire Cochrane District and Hornepayne, in Algoma District. The main office is located in Timmins, Ontario, with branch offices in Cochrane, Hearst, Hornepayne, Iroquois Falls, Kapuskasing, Matheson, Moosonee and Smooth Rock Falls.