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Sudbury's businesses urged to take strong stance on face coverings

Residents accessing businesses, public transit will be asked to wear masks starting July 8
Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, chief medical officer of health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts, says she hopes businesses take a strong stance when it comes to requiring customers to wear face coverngs. (File)

Beginning today, July 8, Sudbury residents will be asked to wear a face covering if they want to enter local businesses or use public transit.

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Sudbury's chief public health official, said she understands why some people are wondering why the medical authorities changed their position on the mask issue in recent weeks when it was not an issue three months ago.

"I guess there's a number of things. We have more information about asymptomatic spread, so people who don't have symptoms can still spread the virus. And more information about the effectiveness of face coverings as part of the tools in the toolbox," said Sutcliffe, adding that social distancing and hand-washing are still vital tools.

Sutcliffe said the common goal is to keep ourselves healthy, to keep the health-care system healthy, and to keep local businesses healthy and economically viable.

"Having this requirement about face coverings when you're in these commercial establishments helps us do all that. It helps the businesses to stay open and not have to go backwards," she added. 

Sutcliffe said even though Ontario is in stage two of the provincial recovery plan, there are rumblings about when and if the province will move to stage three, which the province has termed as "opening all workplaces responsibly."

She said she wants Ontario in a position where it can successfully move forward with stage three, which would likely take place in the fall.

Revised Ontario regulations mandate that employees and clients must maintain physical distancing and that all individuals wear a non-medical mask when physical distancing isn’t possible.

There are exemptions: small children; people who are physically challenged and would not be able to remove a mask without assistance; people experiencing difficulty breathing; people who have medical reasons, such respiratory difficulties; or people who have religious reasons for not wearing a mask.

Sutcliffe said she believes most consumers will be understanding and willing to go along with the new request, and business owners are "encouraged" to take all steps to have customers wear face coverings along with other safety measures. 

"At the end of the day, if a person doesn't wear a mask and the business wants the person still to enter, there is nothing stopping them from doing that," said Sutcliffe.

On the other hand, if a business owner is concerned about the health and safety of their employees, they are free to turn away a customer who refuses to wear a mask.

The Ontario Government COVID-19 website explained  that all employers are mandated to protect their workers, and workers have the right to refuse to work in situations they believe are unsafe.

Sutcliffe said her interpretation of the rules is straightforward in that businesses should do whatever it takes to prevent a second wave of the virus.

"It is in their best interests to not spread COVID-19, and so I would hope the majority of businesses would not allow entry of people who are not wearing face coverings. Absolutely."