Local businesses implemented the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit’s mask mandate July 13 to address the pandemic.

Most commercial businesses must now have policies in place requiring customers to wear masks or face coverings inside their establishments. The enforcement is expected to be done by businesses’ “good faith” with an educational focus, with no one to be denied service for not wearing a mask.

Cindy’s clothing store owner Cindy Willing welcomed the mandate and said early on, customers were respectful of the new rules.

“It’s a great idea. It protects everybody and I think it’s the only way we’re going to continue to combat COVID-19,” the Haliburton businesswoman said.

The mandate offers exemptions for young children under five, religious reasons or medical reasons such as respiratory disease.

Health Unit director of health protection Anne Marie Holt said mask use has risen with the mandate, but they want to ensure people who do not wear them are treated well, too. The mandate does not ask businesses to be confrontational about not wearing masks but to gently remind and educate instead.

“We want to be kind because there are lots of reasons why people aren’t able to tolerate masks,” she said. “Their instructions really are to do the best we can.”

Needful Things sales clerk Denise Woods said although she would have liked the mandate sooner, she is glad it is here.

“Hopefully, it will keep everybody safe and corona(virus) down,” she said. “I figure all doctors and nurses have to wear them, and really why shouldn’t we?”

The health unit said the mandate comes now due to continued reopenings, as the risk of infection spreading remains. The mandate allows for fines to be levied against businesses that do not comply.

The health unit is publishing information about masks and the science behind their use. Holt said she would tell mask skeptics they are about protecting others.

“In a pandemic situation, we’re all in this together,” she said. “We each need to be supporting each other in our community.”

But she said she believes the public will be on board with masks and not exploit exemptions.

“We are confident that the majority of our community members are going to wear masks because we are a socially responsible community and we care about each other,” Holt said. “People for the most part want to do the right thing.”

Mask tips

The health unit has offered many tips about mask use through its website, including:

  • Wash hands immediately before putting on and immediately after taking it off.
  • Avoid moving, adjusting, or touching your mask while using it.
  • Wash the mask after each use.
  • Masks should fit snugly, but comfortably against your face.
  • Do not share cloth masks with others.

For more information and instructions visit hkpr.on.ca or call the health unit at 1-866-888-4577 ext. 5020.

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