Public health issues revised order for face coverings in businesses

Order clarifies exemptions and includes expanded list of businesses impacted to align with stage three of province's reopening

WELLINGTON COUNTY – The public health unit has revised its order requiring face coverings in all commercial businesses.

The revised Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) order, issued on July 14, takes effect three days later to coincide with the region’s move to stage three, which includes the reopening of restaurants and bars (for indoor dining), gyms and recreational facilities, and movie theatres.

“Moving to stage three is a positive sign that we are making progress against this virus,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, WDGPH’s medical officer of health.

“But, it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. We must continue to balance health protection with economic progress in order to continue moving forward together.”

The revised order, which replaces and supercedes the June 12 order released by WDGPH, includes three main changes from its predecessor:

  • it clarifies exemptions to the order to ensure businesses and residents know when face coverings are not required;
  • it provides guidance for businesses on how to respond to exemptions; and
  • it includes an expanded list of businesses affected by the order, consistent with the province’s stage three reopening announcement.

WDGPH was the first public health unit in the province to require mandatory face coverings.

Since that time, several other regions have introduced similar orders or bylaws as more businesses and amenities reopen after closing for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Each of us can continue to be there for each other by washing our hands, using hand sanitizer, maintaining physical distancing of two metres, and wearing a face covering where required,” stated Mercer.

“We all have a role to play as our region safely takes another step forward.”

Much like the first WDGPH order, the revised order, issued under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, defines a face covering as a medical or non-medical mask, bandana, scarf or cloth that covers the mouth, nose and chin.

Businesses now added to the original list of those impacted by the order include:

  • indoor play zones/arcades/art studios;
  • cinemas/performing arts/theatres;
  • indoor arenas/sporting venues as a spectator;
  • public indoor tours of facilities;
  • casinos/charitable gaming halls, including horse racing;
  • fitness facilities/gyms/indoor sports facilities/studios; and
  • common areas of hotels/motels.

The list of businesses/buildings not subject to the order does not appear to have changed from the original order last month.

The revised order, like its predecessor, stipulates that businesses must provide hand sanitizer and customers must wear face coverings “unless it is reasonably required to temporarily remove [it] for services provided.”

That could create some confusion for businesses included in stage three, such as indoor dining and gyms, but the order does include a list of areas that are subject to the order.

Customers exempt from wearing a face covering – in addition to those under two years of age and those whose ability to breathe is inhibited or have a medical condition (included in the June 12 order) – also now include:

  • children under the age of five, either chronologically or developmentally, who refuse to wear one and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver; and
  • those who would be impacted by “the obligation to provide reasonable accommodation under the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

The health unit’s complete July 14 order is available by clicking here.

The June 12 order, for comparison, can be accessed by clicking here.