THUNDER BAY - With more businesses allowed to reopen, public health officials are advising people wear a facemask when physical distancing of at least two metres is not possible, especially on public transit.
“As we start to reopen, we know more people are taking public transit, more people are going to stores, more people are going outside,” said Premier Doug Ford during his daily media briefing on Wednesday. “We need to remember our best protection against this deadly virus is to continue following public health advice.”
The advice is based on recommendations from Dr. David Williams, the Ontario chief medical officer of health, as well as Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada.
Face coverings should fit snuggly over your mouth and nose and be made of at least two layers of tightly woven materials that can be washed multiple times without losing its shape.
Medical masks such as surgical masks and N95 masks should be reserved for healthcare professionals and first responders.
Children under the age of two-years-old or people with breathing problems or unable to remove the mask on their own should not wear one.
Anyone travelling on public transit is also advised to wear a mask, as more safety precautions are being put in place on transit vehicles, including barriers between drivers and passengers and providing hand sanitizer.
During the early stages of the pandemic in January and February, health officials said the general public did not need to wear masks, but with many parts of the country now reopening, that stance has changed.
“Dr. Williams has always said that wearing a mask doesn’t necessary protect you from COVID-19, but it will protect others from you,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott. “Before it wasn’t necessary because we were asking people to stay home.”
“The situation has changed now with the opening of the economy. More people will be outside and they may be in situations where they can’t maintain physical distancing. This is for the general populations protection as we open up the economy more and more.”
The province entered stage one of its three-stage framework for reopening the economy on Tuesday, with certain businesses permitted to reopen while following strict workplace guidelines to protect customers and employees.
Ford said the province will be watching the number of cases very closely and he will not hesitate to roll things back if there is a surge.
“We are watching the trends like a hawk right now,” he said. “We are watching closely for any sudden surges or flare ups. I am fully prepared to take any action necessary. If we see things going in the wrong direction, we won’t hesitate to pull things back if necessary.”
Ford did not provide any specifics on the number of cases that would result in things being rolled back, or any timeline for when the province will enter stage two of reopening.
“Right now we don’t have one specific number,” he said. “We are going to keep an eye on it and if we see the numbers start spiking, we will roll things back in a heartbeat.”