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Local Health Unit not pushing for mandatory mask use

'At this time, we are not recommending mandating the use of face coverings district-wide'
face-masks
File photo.

The use of masks or face coverings has been a hot topic in Ontario recently.  As of July 7, everyone in Toronto must wear a mask when entering public indoor spaces. That is a municipal measure and not a provincial one. 

The Nipissing Parry Sound District Health Unit has addressed the issue as well. 

The local Health Unit is reminding the public to use face coverings (e.g., homemade cloth mask) when physical distancing, a space of two metres or six feet, cannot be maintained, especially in an indoor setting. If worn properly, a face covering, in addition to other protective health measures, can help protect others from your infectious droplets. 

“A face covering does not replace physical distancing and other protective health measures such as hand washing, and isolating yourself when you have symptoms or have come in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or suspected to have COVID-19,” said Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health in a release. 

“I recommend using face coverings when physical distancing cannot be maintained, especially when in an indoor setting, on public transit, and when receiving essential or close-contact services.

“At this time, we are not recommending mandating the use of face coverings district-wide. The Health Unit will continue to monitor local data and will reassess the situation if necessary,” said Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health.

“It is my hope that the use of facial coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic voluntarily becomes widespread and the social norm rather than being mandated. If this does not occur in a timely manner, we will be asking the provincial government to issue a directive under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to ensure consistency throughout the province, rather than having health units and municipalities legislate the use of facial coverings.”

Al McDonald, North Bay's mayor says the city has worked closely with Dr Chirico, the North Bay health unit and local medical professionals from the start.

"I speak with Dr Chirico on a regular basis," said McDonald.  

"We have the second-lowest positive cases per capita. Dr. Chirico is not recommending the mandatory use of face coverings at this time. However, we encourage those that can wear face coverings to do so, including transit users.

McDonald says wearing face coverings does not replace the COVID-19 protocols that are in place. 

"We also recognize there is a segment of the population that can't wear face coverings due to medical conditions like asthma."

He says the Health Unit is working with city officials closely, monitoring the situation and if need be will reassess the topic on a regular basis.

"The mandatory use of face coverings will be very difficult to enforce, however. Southern Ontario locations hit hard by COVID-19 have put an order in place but have recognized publicly that it is almost impossible to enforce," noted McDonald.  

"Should our medical officer of health recommend to us the mandatory use of face coverings, we would call a special meeting of council to pass a by law. Since the pandemic started, our priority is the safety of our citizens first. Working closely with the Health unit and our medical professionals demonstrates council's commitment to safety first. We ask our citizens to continue to follow the protocols including the voluntary measure of wearing fresh coverings to keep our citizens safe."

The Health Unit reminds residents that face coverings should not be worn by children under the age of two, or by a person who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove the face covering without assistance. To learn more about face coverings, including how to wear, clean and discard them, visit www.myhealthunit.ca/FaceCoverings/.

Currently, there is no specific treatment for COVID-19. It is important to remember that most people with COVID-19 have no symptoms or mild symptoms. People who are mildly ill should isolate and care for themselves at home. Most will recover in one to two weeks by simply treating the symptoms. 

The Health Unit says the public needs to remain cautious. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate yourself and call a testing centre to book an appointment. If you have additional questions about COVID-19 please call the Health Unit’s call centre at 1-800-563-2808 option 5.


Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with BayToday.ca since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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