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Masks mandatory as of tomorrow: Here are the dos and don'ts, Newmarket

'We are asking York Region residents to please show kindness to people not wearing masks as there are a variety of reasons,' York Region spokesperson says

As of Friday, July 17 at 12:01 a.m., if you enter an enclosed public space in Newmarket and the rest of York Region, you must cover your nose and mouth with a mask or face covering.

It is up to the region’s businesses and organizations to put a policy in place that prohibits people from entering the premises if they are not wearing a face covering.

The York Region medical officer of health’s order, which is made under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2020.

NewmarketToday has researched the answers to your key questions about the universal masking policy. Here is what you need to know:

What kind of face covering should I wear?

At least a two-layer mask or face covering is recommended by York Region public health. That can include homemade masks made of fabric, a disposable medical mask, bandana, scarf, or cloth, including a hijab and niqab. The mask should cover the mouth, nose, and chin to ensure a barrier that limits transmission of infectious respiratory droplets.

Based on new research, the World Health Organization issued a recommendation on June 5, 2020 that fabric masks should consist of at least three layers of different material to be worn where physical distancing is difficult in shops, on transit or in other crowded environments.

The ideal combination of material for non-medical masks should include an innermost layer of a hydrophilic material such as cotton or cotton blends, an outermost layer made of hydrophobic material, like polypropylene or polyester, and a middle hydrophobic layer of synthetic non-woven material such as polypropylene or a cotton layer.

Can I wear a face shield instead of a mask?

A face shield is not a substitute for wearing a face mask or covering as it does not filter respiratory droplets for the wearer or for others, York Region public health says.

While it may provide additional protection for the wearer against droplets expelled from another person, these droplets may still be inhaled around the shield.

Also, respiratory  droplets expelled by the wearer may escape around the sides of the face shield, which provides less protection to others. If you choose to wear a face shield, public health recommends, if possible, to wear it in addition to a properly fitted mask.

Where do I have to wear a face covering when out and about in Newmarket and York Region?

Face coverings are mandatory in the following enclosed public spaces: 

  • All retailers and merchants, including malls and other commercial establishments;
  • Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, or other places of worship; 
  • Community centres, including indoor recreational facilities;
  • Libraries, art galleries, museums, aquariums, zoos; 
  • Community service agencies providing services to the public; 
  • Banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, stadiums, and other event spaces; 
  • Premises utilized as an open house, presentation centre, or other facility for real estate purposes;
  • Common areas of hotels, motels and other short-term rentals, such as lobbies, elevators, meeting rooms or other common use facilities;
  • Concert venues, theatres, cinemas, casinos, and other entertainment facilities.

Do children have to wear masks?

No, children under five, as well as individuals whose health is compromised by wearing a mask or who are unable to put on and take off a face covering without assistance, and anyone who requires accommodation under the Human Rights Code.

I can't wear a mask because of a medical condition, do I have to provide proof?

No, your declaration must be accepted at face value.

“In addition, we are asking York Region residents to please show kindness to people not wearing masks as there are a variety of reasons, including medical, why individuals are not able to wear a face covering,” York Region spokesperson Patrick Casey says.

Do I have to wear a face covering on an outdoor patio or at a park?

No, face coverings are not required in outdoor settings, such as a restaurant patio, or in indoor spaces that are not open to the public. But when you move from a patio to the restaurant's indoor public washroom, a face covering is required.

If I'm exercising or eating in the park, do I have to wear a mask?

Under the order, face coverings may be removed temporarily if you are eating or drinking, or while actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities.

Do employees working indoors also have to wear masks?

Yes, the rule also applies to employees who work in all public-facing indoor areas. However, employees working behind a plexiglas barrier are not required to wear face coverings.

Do I have to wear a mask at home?

No, a mask or face covering is not required at home with immediate family members, or in a workplace where other standards apply, such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act. 

Are schools and child care centres included in the order?

No, schools, licensed child care centres and indoor/outdoor day camps are also exempt.

Who is responsible for enforcing the masking policy?

Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, York Region’s public health unit and local municipal bylaw officers are authorized to enforce these requirements.

Is there a fine for violating the masking order?

According to regional spokesperson Patrick Casey, at this time, preventing people without face coverings from entering premises is to be applied in “good faith”. The universal masking order will be used primarily as an opportunity to educate people on the use of face coverings, combined with other ongoing recommended public health practices, Casey said, such as physical distancing, hand washing and staying at home if you are sick.

However, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, failure to comply with an order made during a declared emergency carries a fine of $750. The fine for obstructing any person from exercising a power in accordance with an order made during a declared emergency rings in at $1,000. Obstructing any person from performing a duty also carries a $1,000 fine.

What if I forget my mask at home?

You can expect a verbal reminder from an employee at the business or organization that a face covering is required to enter the premises. For clarity, the mask order states there is no need for a business or organization to turn away a customer or visitor to achieve the “best effort” standard that is expected of them to prohibit those without masks from entering.

Similarly, where a person in a premise is observed removing their face covering for extended periods of time, a verbal reminder to that person of the requirement to wear a face covering shall be given, the order states.

Will wearing a face covering prevent me from catching or spreading the new coronavirus?

In short, no. Research on the use of face coverings in public settings has limitations, however, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating some effectiveness in preventing the spread of COVID-19, according to York Region’s top doctor, Dr. Karim Kurji.

“Despite these limitations, there is increasing evidence and scientific opinion demonstrating the potential benefits of more universal usage of face coverings, particularly in situations where physical distancing is less possible, such as on public transit and in grocery stores,” Dr. Kurji states in a July 9 report to regional council.

Dr. Kurji cites various epidemiological studies comparing jurisdictions with and without mandatory face covering policies that have found statistically significant reductions in daily growth or incidence rates and death rates in jurisdictions with these laws compared to those without. 

In addition, modelling studies have shown substantial estimates of the number of cases and deaths that are thought to be prevented as a result of universal face covering policies in various epicenters of the pandemic, such as Italy, Wuhan, and New York. 

Do I still have to maintain a distance of six feet or two metres if I'm wearing a mask?

Yes, when you can. York Region associate medical officer of health Dr. Alanna Fitzgerald-Husek said it’s important to note that face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and other important health measures, such as practising good hand hygiene and monitoring your health. 

Also, there is limited evidence that face coverings protect the wearer from respiratory droplets produced by others. They are more for the purposes of source control. And to have an impact, uptake in the population should be in the range of at least 80 per cent and be implemented early in the pandemic.

Observational studies of shoppers conducted by the region’s public health staff between June 27 and July 2 at three regional malls, not including children who appeared to be two years or younger, found that Newmarket’s Upper Canada Mall patrons had the lowest incidence of wearing face coverings at 52 per cent. By comparison, 82 per cent of shoppers at Markham’s Markville Shopping Centre wore masks.

What about my right not to wear a mask in public spaces?

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association does not support generalized mandatory mask policies that require the wearing of non-medical masks in all indoor public settings, and says there is a difference between a law passed by a government that requires masks and a policy put in place by a private business that does so, such as what will come into effect on July 17 in York Region.

“On the one hand, private businesses must respect human rights laws, but they otherwise have the freedom, in many cases, to choose with whom they do business,” said lawyer Cara Faith Zwibel, who is director of the organization’s fundamental freedoms program.

“Private businesses are not generally bound by the constitution, which regulates governments, laws and public policy,” Zwibel wrote. “Governments, on the other hand, have to justify restrictions on liberty, such as forcing people to wear a mask, as being both reasonable and demonstrably justified (i.e. based on evidence).”

You can read more about the national association’s position here.

For more information on York Region's masking policy, visit here.