Face coverings mandatory in Oxford, Elgin

Face masks Chris Schwarz / Government of Alberta

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Face coverings will be mandatory in enclosed public spaces as of midnight tonight (Thursday, July 30).

Southwestern Public Health has issued a letter of instruction for all businesses in Oxford County and Elgin County. It includes a one-week grace period to allow businesses time to prepare. Policies must be in place by 12 a.m. on August 6.

All commercial establishments, public transit, and commercial service vehicles are instructed to implement two policies: one that requires everyone to wear face coverings while in enclosed public spaces; and a second for public health measures in enclosed employee spaces not accessible to the public. The second policy focuses on physical distancing, face coverings when physical distancing is not possible, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, and requiring staff who are sick to stay home while advising they be tested for COVID-19.

Southwestern Public Health is also recommending municipalities pass bylaws for a consistent approach to face coverings across the region, subject to timing for local councils to meet. Tillsonburg’s next regular council meeting is August 10.

“Our response has evolved throughout this pandemic, yet it has always been centred on measures equal to local risks,” said Dr. Joyce Lock, Medical Officer of Health, in a media release. “Our confirmed cases have increased, most public spaces are open, and we have more opportunities to interact with each other. Face coverings will help manage these risks.”

45 COVID-19 CASES IN OXFORD-ELGIN

Tillsonburg new has seven confirmed, active COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, July 30.

There are 46 active cases in the Oxford-Elgin region – higher than at any point in the last four months. That includes four in Norwich, 23 in Aylmer, six in Bayham, four in St. Thomas and one in Central Elgin.

When it comes to enforcement, Southwestern Public Health and its municipal partners will take an education-first approach. However, individuals and corporations that do not comply could face fines.

“Our hope is the community will share the responsibility of containing COVID-19 by following these policies,” said Dr. Lock. “It is an incredibly caring act to wear a face covering because it protects other people from your germs. My mask protects you, and your mask protects me.”

Certain individuals are exempt from wearing a face covering, including children under 2 or children under 5 if they cannot be persuaded to wear one by a caregiver… people with health conditions that make it difficult to wear one… people in situations where a face covering would limit the ability to breathe (such as swimming)… and people who cannot put on or remove a face covering without help.

Businesses cannot ask anyone for proof of exemption.

“Please be understanding if someone cannot wear a face covering due to health conditions,” said Dr. Lock, who noted face coverings are not intended to replace physical distancing.

The letter of instruction will remain in effect until further notice. Learn more at www.swpublichealth.ca/WorkplacesCOVID-19.

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