Masking up is mandatory when inside a business or public building in Eastern Ontario but businessowners are not expected to make their customers wear masks. Doctor Paul Roumeliotis of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit emphasized that the sole responsibility of businessowners is making sure customers know about the masking directive and to ensure that their own staff wear masks or face shields while on duty.
Masking up is mandatory when inside a business or public building in Eastern Ontario but businessowners are not expected to make their customers wear masks. Doctor Paul Roumeliotis of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit emphasized that the sole responsibility of businessowners is making sure customers know about the masking directive and to ensure that their own staff wear masks or face shields while on duty.

Local businesses are not the “pandemic mask police”

Gregg Chamberlain
EAP
Local businessowners do not need to fear that they are legally responsible if some of their customers refuse to wear a mask while inside their premises.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, chief medical health officer for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), tried to clear up some of the confusion about the mandatory masking rule for Eastern Ontario during his July 23 teleconference with media. He emphasized that the sole responsibility of businessowners is to make sure their staff wear masks or face shields while at work and to make sure that their customers know about the mandatory masking rule.

“It’s just that we want them to remind people,” said Dr. Roumeliotis, regarding the masking directive. “I do not expect them (businesses) to enforce it or police it.”

The mandatory masking directive took effect throughout the Eastern Ontario region through a joint decision of all four public health units as a means to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19. The directive applies to the interior of stores, the common areas of businesses like a reception office, and public buildings.

There are exemptions under the directive for people who are not able to wear a mask for medical reasons or other legitimate causes. But, Dr. Roumeliotis noted, anyone who claims an exemption from the directive is not required to provide proof on demand.

“They do not need a medical note,” he said, adding that businessowners and their staff should not forbid entry to a person who claims an exemption.

The responsibility of the business with an exemption case, Dr. Roumeliotis noted, is to remind the customer of the social distancing rule and make sure they understand what it means.

Dr. Roumeliotis affirmed that the EOHU will look into ways to clarify the masking directive to businesses in the region.

As of July 23 the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the EOHU region since the start of the pandemic is 173. Of those cases 151 are now classed as resolved, which means the people who tested positive for the disease have gone through their self-isolation period without showing any more symptoms. There are 22 cases still active, with the people involved still in self-isolation.

Five of the unresolved cases are in the Prescott-Russell area. The Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry area also has five unresolved cases. The other two cases are in the City of Cornwall area.