Going forward safely
During a press conference on July 6 the EOHU and the four other health units in Eastern Ontario announced face coverings would be mandatory in public spaces effective at 12:01 a.m. on July 7. Here on the left, Julie Jeaurond, who is co-owner of Mike Dean Local Grocer located on King Street in Chesterville and Sharon Nicol to the right are shown at the entrance of the store. Both were pleased to say everything was going fine at the store since the implementation of this directive. Thompson Goddard photo

CHESTERVILLE – Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have been voluntarily wearing a mask to lessen the transmission of the disease, especially when worn in an enclosed public space. The phrase “I wear a mask, I protect you. You wear a mask, you protect me. We all wear a mask means everyone is protected”  has been heard throughout the pandemic period as a reason for the public wearing a non-medical mask in public. 

While previously face coverings has been on a voluntary basis, on Mon., July 6,  Medical Officer of Health (MOH) from Ottawa Public Health, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Health Unit, Renfrew County and District Health Unit and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit announced a directive making the wearing of face masks mandatory in certain enclosed public spaces. This came into effect on July 7 at 12:00 a.m., with an enforcement grace period until 12:00 a.m. on July 14.

During the press conference EOHU medical officer of health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis commented on the success found in Eastern Ontario at keeping the number of Covid-19 cases at a relatively low level. He attributed this to members of the public following the government regulations before stressing the importance of not becoming too complacent because the “pandemic is not over.” 

Roumeliotis mentioned how mandatory mask wearing has been shown to help alleviate the spread of Covid-19 when used in conjunction with physical distancing and good hand hygiene. He continued as restrictions designed to combat the spread of Covid-19 begin to lessen, and more people go out into enclosed public spaces, wearing a mask can help to stop the spread of this disease.

Dr. Paula Stewart, MOH for the  Lanark Leeds and Grenville District Health Unit, commented there was a need for a common approach to stopping the spread of Covid-19 in Eastern Ontario, before mentioning mandatory mask wearing across our region is one part of the combined approach. She mentioned how this directive is all about social responsibility, with public health assisting businesses, organizations and people to ensure we are moving forward together in this region.

Dr. Robert Cushman, MOH for Renfrew County and District Health Unit, explained why wearing a mask in public is important during the pandemic. He commented how wearing facial masks assists in protecting people against Covid-19, when used in conjunction with social distancing and other measures taken to contain the virus. He continued how this may be a temporary personal inconvenience which will allow us to move forward in containing this disease while continuing with the re-opening of Ontario.

 A clear, consistent and unified approach to the wearing of masks across the Champlain Region is important as people move between the areas in the region on a regular basis, according to Dr. Vera Etches, MOH Ottawa Public Health Unit. She continued there will be exemptions to this directive due to age or health concerns, stressing how we are in a period of societal change and asking people to be kind and understanding to each other.

Following the statements from the four Medical Officer of Health, there was a question and answer period during which it was explained how this directive affects all people including visitors to the area; also explained some of the exemptions from wearing facial covering and how the directive will be enforced. It was mentioned that there is no definite timeline for the mandatory wearing of facial coverings, but it is expected this directive will be reviewed in a timely fashion. When asked, Etches explained businesses are responsible for signage, training and protection of their employees but not for enforcement of this directive. More information on this subject can be found at https://eohu.ca.