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Durham making masks mandatory

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

DURHAM/KAWARTHA LAKES: The Region of Durham is making it mandatory for residents and visitors to wear masks or face coverings while in indoor public spaces. “Today, Dr. Robert Kyle, Durham Region Medical Officer of Health, issued instructions to ensure the mandatory use of non-medical masks or face coverings within most public and enclosed indoor spaces, effective July 10th. This means that non-medical masks or face coverings are mandatory for all community members, with the exception of those who [are or] have: health, respiratory and sensory issues; various disabilities; are unable to remove the mask without assistance; children under the age of two; or other valid reasons,” read a statement from Regional Chair John Henry, released on Monday, July 6th. Chair Henry stated this requirement will remain in place “while the provincial emergency orders remain in force.” “As a result of this instruction, face coverings will be mandatory in commercial establishments, which includes, but is not limited to: retail and convenience stores; malls; enclosed farmers’ markets; libraries and community centres; and business offices open to the public,” read Chair Henry’s statement. But people won’t need to wear a mask when they are in their own home, or are eating at an outdoor restaurant patio. Business owners will be required to put a policy in place regarding the wearing of masks or face coverings, and to use their discretion whether or not they will refuse a person to enter their business, if they don’t comply with the posting. “We intend to enforce this policy in ‘good faith’, using it as an opportunity to educate people on the use of face coverings, combined with other recommended public health practices, to help keep our community and each other safe,” Chair Henry said. Last week, Premier Doug Ford left it up to individual regions, health units and school boards to decide whether to implement mandatory mask orders. “If you’re in large groups, wear a mask or a face covering of some sort and practice social distancing. That’s the golden rule, but each region has the authority to make their own rules. In a province this size, I encourage it. I encourage and compliment the regions that are doing it. But Toronto and Peel is different than Kenora-Rainy River. It’s apples and oranges,” Premier Ford explained, at a June 30th press conference. Premier Ford was also asked about the province’s position on older school students, such as high school students, being allowed to wear masks in schools in September. “Each board right across the province has the flexibility. We want to give each board the flexibility to move forward,” Premier Ford said. “We’ll leave it up to the Regional boards to make that decision.” A Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) spokesperson has confirmed they are working on their back to school guidelines. “We are in the process of planning for our return to school in September. At the moment we do not have our plans finalized. We will certainly incorporate any requirements from the Ministry of Education and public health. And we will be including discussion about masks as part of our planning process,” TLDSB spokesperson Catherine Shedden told The Standard, in an email. Kawartha Lakes Mayor Andy Letham was not available for comment by press time, but the issue will be discussed during a telephone press conference this week.

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