The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge Board of Health discussed the importance of non-confrontation and kindness after a man reacted with violent opposition to the health unit’s mask mandate.

The board discussed July 16 the health unit’s new instructions for businesses to require masks. The mandate, which began July 13, asks most businesses to have policies requiring masks in indoor premises, but not to deny service or get into confrontations with those who refuse.

But the board delved into a tragic incident July 15. Police said a 73-year-old man refused to wear a mask at a Minden Valu-mart and assaulted an employee there. The man later died in a police altercation at a Dysart residence.

“It’s really important that store owners and those businesses in those places have the poster and have the polices,” board member and Dysart Mayor Andrea Roberts said. “But, if for whatever reason, someone is refusing, to really not engage because we don’t know where that person is coming from mentally. We don’t know what the trigger is, and we can’t ask an individual what their reason is for not wearing a mask

“But it was very sad and just goes to show the stress that a lot of people are under,” Roberts added.

Central region OPP acting staff sergeant Jason Folz said the man responded to a employee positioned at the front of the store to ensure people wore masks. He said the man refused and assaulted the employee before getting into a vehicle, driving aggressively at people, and leaving the vicinity. Folz said the employee was treated for minor injuries and returned to work that day.

The health unit’s mask order offers exemptions to mask-wearing for medical and religious reasons. It also asks businesses to enforce in “good faith” and focus on education.

But the health unit also said non-compliant businesses may be liable for fines under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

Medical officer of health Dr. Lynn Noseworthy said the objective of the mandate is to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and start normalizing mask-wearing. She quoted from B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on how people should respond.

“‘Be kind, be calm, be safe,’” Noseworthy said. “The pandemic has been a very challenging situation for everybody … Everybody is very stressed.

“Acknowledge some people can’t wear a mask for whatever reason – that’s their business and we have to respect that,” she added.

Board chair Doug Elmslie agreed with the sentiment and said it would be nice if people followed Henry’s advice.

“Let’s hope we don’t have any more incidents like the one yesterday and we move forward,” he said.

When asked to respond to concerns about employees being put into a difficult position managing people, Elmslie declined.

“We would decline to comment at this time and wait for police officials to do their job,” Emslie said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to say anything right now.”

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