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HKPR District Health Unit updates mask directive as Stage 3 gets underway

With more businesses and services opening today (July 17) under Stage 3 of the provincial reopening plan, the HKPR District Health Unit has updated its directive around non-medical mask use in indoor public places.

The revised instructions took effect at 12:01 a.m. and cover more businesses opening in the area, while explaining how mask use will work in settings like restaurants, gyms/fitness clubs, movie theatres and other indoor spaces.

“As more indoor public spaces open under Stage 3, it’s important we provide clarity and clear direction on the use of non-medical masks and face coverings for everyone in our community,” said Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, Medical Officer of Health for the HKPR District Health Unit.

“We want to continue to work with businesses and facilities to ensure compliance with mask use, while also helping them understand why some people may not be able to wear masks due to age or medical reasons.”

Increasing scientific evidence supports wearing a mask when in enclosed public spaces as way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Noseworthy noted.

“Together with physical distancing, hand and cough hygiene, and staying home if sick, the use of a non-medical mask or face covering in indoor public places are all important measures to protect everyone from COVID-19,” she continued.

The Health Unit’s updated instructions on mask use in indoor public places include the following points:

– Indoor mask use now applies to any place of business or facility that is indoors and currently open to the public under Stage 3 . Public settings include: retail stores, churches/places of worship, public libraries, real estate open houses, personal care services (relating to the hair or body), restaurants/food courts, fitting rooms, driving instruction services, sports and recreation facilities, movie theatres, performing arts centres, casinos/bingo halls, and museums/cultural centres;

– While face coverings must be worn in most indoor places and situations open to the public, the exception is when patrons are ‘in place’ and no longer ‘roaming’ inside the premises. In the case of eating inside a restaurant, patrons would not have to wear masks if sitting at their table (entering, exiting and walking around the food premise would require masks). In gyms and fitness clubs, masks would be worn in change rooms, washroom and waiting areas, but not when people take part in an activity or sport. At indoor weddings, funeral services, or religious services/rites/ceremonies, attendees would have to wear masks until seated with a secured distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others. Movie patrons and theatregoers would also have to remain masked until they were seated with a secured distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others;

– People who remain exempt from wearing masks indoors include: children under 2; children under age 5 (developmentally or in actual years) who refuse to wear masks; individuals who cannot remove a mask without help; and people with medical conditions like respiratory disease or cognitive difficulties.

Dr. Noseworthy is asking businesses/facilities to use their “best effort” to ensure patrons and members of the public wear a mask by pointing out the Health Unit instructions.

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask, she added. At the same time, she encourages everyone to be understanding of those individuals who have a legitimate reason not to wear a mask.

“Let’s continue to be kind to each other and support everyone in the community as we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

For more information about the mask directive, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020, or click HERE.

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