Haldimand County approves mask bylaw

Significant differences with Norfolk bylaw

Haldimand County and Norfolk County adopted bylaws regarding masks Monday and Friday respectively. Haldimand’s bylaw takes effect Aug. 1 while full compliance in Norfolk is expected by Aug. 3. -- File photo sayu_k / Getty images

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Haldimand County is the latest municipality in south-central Ontario to adopt a bylaw related to masks and facial coverings.

Haldimand council approved the measure Monday. It takes effect Aug. 1.

“This has been – and continues to be – a very polarizing issue,” Mayor Ken Hewitt said in a news release.

“It would have been preferable for the decision to come from the province or the local board of health. But unfortunately, that’s not the case.

“That being said, we have a duty to protect the community, especially given the influx of visitors to the area. We’ve taken a lot of steps over the past few months to ensure our numbers remain low and we certainly don’t want to lose that momentum and traction. The approved face covering bylaw is an added layer of defence in our battle with the virus.”

Norfolk council approved a mask and facial covering bylaw at a special meeting Friday. Norfolk council and staff expressed support for Norfolk and Haldimand’s board of health to transact the matter so that the rules are consistent across the municipalities.

However, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, Norfolk and Haldimand’s medical officer of health, declined to issue an order or get involved July 21, saying this was a political decision that should be undertaken by political representatives. As such, there are important differences between the respective bylaws.

For example, affected businesses in Norfolk have till Aug. 3 to comply. The Haldimand bylaw takes effect Aug. 1.

As well, Norfolk’s bylaw exempts children under the age of two and children up to the age of 5 if they don’t want to wear a mask. In Haldimand, children under the age of 10 are exempt. Also exempt are individuals who cannot wear a face covering for medical reasons or due to a disability.

The Haldimand bylaw divides affected indoor spaces and the rules for the same into two categories.

The first involves businesses with “a high volume of in-and-out foot traffic.” This includes supermarkets, convenience stores, bakeries, financial institutions, pharmacies and retailers with more than 5,000 square feet of floor space.

Category 1 businesses must adopt a mask and facial covering policy that forbids members of the public from entering without this personal protective feature.

Category 2 businesses in Haldimand are those where social distancing of at least two metres is required. This includes restaurants and other interior spaces devoted to entertainment, food and drink. Also included are office buildings, houses of worship, retailers with more than 5,000 square feet, libraries, community centres, indoor sports and recreation facilities, and gymnasiums.

Affected Category 2 businesses must post signage stating that social distancing must be observed and that a mask or facial covering is required in situations where the two-metre rule is impractical. Category 2 businesses in Haldimand also have the option of requiring masks or facial coverings regardless of social-distancing considerations.

The Haldimand bylaw is set to expire Nov. 2 unless repealed or amended before then. Violations of the Norfolk and Haldimand bylaws can be reported to the counties’ enforcement hotline at 519-428-8019.

Also adopting mask and facial covering bylaws in recent weeks are Brant County, the City of Brantford and Six Nations. Norfolk and Haldimand acted quickly following word from the province July 20 that both would enter a Stage 3 re-opening of their economies July 24.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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