Chief Medical Officer mandates masks, still encourages tourism despite outbreak
Due to an outbreak of COVID-19 at a nail salon in the west end of Kingston and the failure of the business and people in that business to comply with public health measures, Chief Medical Officer of KFL&A Public Health, Dr. Kieran Moore has mandated that mandatory mask use will be put in place.
Dr. Moore says that he recognizes that Kingston’s economy relies heavily on tourism and the downtown restaurant scene and because of this, masks are now mandatory so that the economy and opening of businesses does not slide backwards.
“We understand we have to have a balance between health, social and economics as we move through this,” he said in the conference. “We think this is an appropriate response to the risk in our community.”
As of 1:00 pm on June 26, 2020 there were 16 active cases directly linked to Binh’s Nail Salon.
“We have seen more people wearing face coverings voluntarily and making them mandatory reinforces best practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” he said in a press release. “We are a welcoming and caring community that wants our businesses to succeed. With this added protection of making face coverings mandatory I hope that this will help to reassure everyone that it is safe to access commercial establishments and to continue to support our local businesses.”
Dr. Moore also addressed the concerns from the public that people from outside of the Kingston region have come to receive services and eat at patios, emphasizing that Kingston is a welcoming community and confirming that there has been no connections to the GTA or Ottawa in the increase in cases.
“I don’t want us pointing any blame on any other region in our province or country,” he said. “There has been no direct link through our investigation to Toronto and no evidence to date that there has been any significant use of (Binh’s Nail Salon) from Toronto or Ottawa.”
He also emphasized that Kingston and the surrounding community is a welcoming place and that the community should continue to remain accepting to others outside of the region, addressing the businesses only accepting people with a Kingston area code and Kingston area ID.
“It bothers me to hear it,” he said. “We have a low risk of infection across this province and across this country. Toronto has done great efforts (and) the GTA in general to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in their communities and their rates at a population level are exceptionally low.”
“So as a community we should realize that the risk is really very low and that our economy is very much dependent upon tourism and that is something we really can’t limit at present.”
According to Dr. Moore, Public Health is continuing to investigate businesses that have not complied with public health measures and will be updating the public health website about businesses that are being fined.
According to Dr. Moore, the mandatory mask mandate is put in place under section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Under this Act, the onus is on the individual to wear and bring a mask with them, however, if a business lets people into their building without a mask on, they are at risk of being fined up to $5000.
This mandate will go into place at 12:01 a.m. on June 27 2020. According to Dr. Moore, businesses are not required to hand out masks but they can if they desire.
He also added that for people who do not have the funds to purchase a mask, the city is collaborating with the United Way to provide individuals with free masks. He did not give a timeline on this.
According to a press release provided by KFL&A Public Health, this is a list of individuals exempt from wearing a mask, as well as a list of places where masks are required.
People who are exempt from wearing a mask:
- A child under the age of two
- A child under the age of five who are either chronically or developmentally impaired and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver
- Wearing a face covering would inhibit the person’s ability to breathe
- For any medical reason the person cannot safely wear a face covering due to a respiratory disease, cognitive difficulties or difficulties in hearing or processing information
List of places where it is mandatory:
- Retail stores
- Convenience stores
- Malls or plazas
- Food premises
- Personal service settings
- Grocery stores or bakeries
- Churches or faith settings
- Farmer’s markets
- Areas of a mechanic’s shop, garage, or repair shop which are open to the public
- Community centres
- Private transportation (taxis or limos etc.)
- Public transportation (bus or train)
- Day camps (staff only)
- Day care centres (staff only)
- Business offices that are open to the public
Patrons will not be required to wear a mask in an outdoor setting such as a restaurant patio.
The South Frontenac region is also issuing a mandatory mask mandate for all individuals entering municipal facilities, including Township Staff working at the Township offices on St. George Street and Keely Road. The offices will not be opening until July 2, 2020 in order to revise and implement public safety measures.
Dr. Moore said that with good use of masks, hand hygiene and social distancing when possible, the community will continue to fight the spread and that this outbreak will be a good learning opportunity for the Kingston community.
“We must rise to the threat of the virus,” he said. “We must learn from this experience.”