UPDATED: People will be required to wear masks in all indoor public spaces in Simcoe Muskoka

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has announced masks will be required when entering indoor public spaces like businesses or on public transit.

“There is emerging evidence that suggests the spread of COVID-19 can be reduced with a high level of compliance of non-medical mask use by the public.” said local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner.

The health unit said the mandatory mask policy will begin on Monday, July 13.

“As we move through the stages of the reopening of the economy there is an increased risk of 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.” said Gardner.

The health unit has prepared instructions for businesses and organizations that they use their “best efforts” requiring the public to wear face coverings, including the use of signs and verbal reminders.

Businesses will not be required to turn away a customer who is not wearing a face covering. There will also be certain exemptions including age, such as children under two, religious practices and medical circumstances.

The policy applies to all government buildings and places of worship.

A face covering means a medical or non-medical mask or other face coverings such as a bandana, a scarf or cloth that covers the mouth and nose.

Gardner said employees working behind a sufficient barrier such as plexiglass will not be required to wear a mask. He said the face covering policy will not apply to schools, child care or day camps because there are already provincial protocols in place.

While there are substantial penalties for violating the mask policy, the health unit is going to emphasize an educational and supportive approach. Fines can range between $750 to $1,000 for the public and up to $10 million for corporations.

Police, health unit personnel and municipal bylaw officers have the power to lay charges but Gardner admitted there are very limited resources.

Gardner said the policy will remain in place until the Ontario government lifts the state of emergency or the health unit decides otherwise.

Mandatory masks are required in other jurisdictions such as Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa, Kingston and in Wellington Dufferin and Guelph.

What type of business or organizations are included in the instructions?

Businesses or organizations that are openly accessible to members of the public and are used for the purposes of offering goods or services for sale to members of the public and include a mall or other structures containing commercial premises, and currently include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Retail stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Malls and shopping plazas
  • Food premises
  • Personal service settings
  • Grocery stores and bakeries
  • Churches or faith settings
  • Farmers’ markets
  • Areas of mechanics’ shops and garages, and repair shops which are open to the public.
  • Libraries
  • Community centres
  • Private transportation (e.g. bus, taxi, or limo)
  • Public transportation (e.g. bus or train)
  • Business offices open to the public
  • Professional offices where clients receive purchased services (e.g. lawyer’s or accountant’s offices) that are not open to members of the public

Only the indoor public space of a business or organization is subject to the face covering requirements and is defined as:

  • Any areas in which customers interact with one another or with staff members, OR
  • Any areas that are open or accessible to members of the public;

What is NOT included in the instructions?

  • Schools, licensed child care centers and indoor/outdoor day camps
  • Indoor areas of a building accessible to only employees
  • Areas that are outside, whether or not the areas are covered (e.g. restaurant patios)