MUSKOKA, ON-The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has confirmed the public will be required to wear masks when in indoor public spaces.

Under the authority of the Provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, masks will be required when businesses, organizations and public transit systems in the Simcoe Muskoka region starting on July 13th. 

The SMDHU confirmed instructions would be posted at each business, reminding people they must wear a mask before entering a building. 

Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health with the SMDHU as “As we move through the stages of the reopening of the economy, there is an increased risk of a resurgence of COVID-19 transmission in our communities. Locally we are seeing more visitors from other parts of the province with a much higher incidence of COVID-19, resulting in crowding in public spaces, and this has us concerned.”

He noted there is emerging evidence suggesting the spread of COVID-19 can be reduced with a high level of compliance of non-medical mask use by residents and visitors. 

Moving forward, the health unit has prepared instructions for businesses and organizations under the Protection Act, which includes the expectation that they use their “best efforts” in requiring the public to wear masks, including using signs and verbal reminders. 

Currently, there is no requirement that businesses turn away customers who are not wearing a face covering.

The health unit confirmed that types of businesses and organizations that are included in the instructions include, retail stores, convenience stores, malls and shopping plazas, food premises, personal services settings, farmers’ markets, mechanics’ shops and garages, repair shops, libraries, community centres, private transportation, public transportation, and business offices where clients receive purchases services.   

There are certain expectations from the mask requirement, however, including age, religious practices and medical circumstances.

The types of institutions that are not included in the instructions are schools, licensed child care centers and indoor/outdoor day camps, indoor areas of a building accessible to only employees, and areas that are outside whether or not they are covered. This is due to them having their own separate orders that came down from the province. 

“Our businesses and organizations that are open to the public have worked diligently to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and many already ask that patrons and clients wear a face covering,” said Dr. Gardner. “Requiring the public to wear a face-covering is an extra step to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and is key for the continued successful reopening of the local economy and to safeguard our residents against the virus in circulation now, into the fall and beyond.”

For more information, visit the SMDHU’s website here.