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Local health units announce regional approach to mandatory masks

July 6, 2020
Public Health

Today Medical Officers of Health from Eastern Ontario Health Unit; Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit; Renfrew County and District Health and Ottawa Public Health announced a regional approach to the use of masks in their respective jurisdictions.

Each public health unit will be invoking a directive under the Province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that requires individuals to wear a mask in certain enclosed public spaces. Under the directive, the person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.

“Increasing scientific evidence indicates that wearing a mask is an important measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission,” says Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health with Ottawa Public Health. “It is important to have a clear and consistent regionalized approach to mandatory masks across the Champlain region, especially as we are in the middle of peak travel season.”

A motion to institute a bylaw ensuring that residents of the City of Ottawa wear a mask in enclosed public spaces will be brought forward at Council on July 15. The directive invoked by Dr. Vera Etches will remain in place until such bylaw takes effect.

“The overarching message is this: along with other public health recommendations such as physical distancing, washing your hands often and staying home when you are sick, wearing a mask when in an enclosed public space will help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” says Dr. Etches.

The mask must cover your mouth, nose and chin to prevent respiratory droplets from your mouth and nose from reaching others or landing on surfaces. It is important for Ottawa residents to know how to properly wear a mask, as per Ottawa Public Health’s guidance. Learn more about how to properly wear a mask, and where to purchase a mask at OttawaPublicHealth.ca/masks.

The policy will be enacted and enforced in good faith and will be primarily used as a means to educate people on mandatory mask use in enclosed public spaces.

More information on the directive for Ottawa, including a FAQ, can be found here.

It is anticipated that the proposed bylaw being tabled at Ottawa City Council on July 15 will have similar if not identical requirements to those of the directive. More information on the bylaw will be provided in the days prior to the July 15 Council meeting.

Ottawa Public Health’s most recent public engagement survey found that the majority of residents from Ottawa are willing to have mask use made mandatory in enclosed public spaces in order for them to feel comfortable shopping.

“We have heard directly from businesses and residents that a clear mandatory mask directive is important to them as we navigate safely towards Stage 3,” says Dr. Etches. “Socializing and normalizing mask use in enclosed public places will help protect our community.”

Wearing a mask is an additional action to take in being COVIDWise and is not a substitute for the need for isolating yourself when sick, staying two metres apart from others and exercising proper hand hygiene.

For more information on masks, visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/masks.

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