On July 7, the four public health units in Eastern Ontario issued directives making it mandatory for residents to wear a mask, face shield or other type of face covering when they are inside stores, other businesses or in common areas of public buildings. The directives, authorized under provincial public health emergency regulations, gives all businesses and municipalities a one-week grace period to post signs on the mandatory mask order and to prepare staff to deal with customers who are not wearing masks.
EAP reporters visited several businesses in Hawkesbury, Rockland, Embrun, Casselman and other parts of the Prescott-Russell. Most residents seemed compliant and could be seen going about their daily activities with a ready-to-wear mask. « It’s for our safety, » said Zachariah Bené, a resident of Hawkesbury, during a walk in the sun on July 8.
All businesses we visited had signs posted informing people about the masking policy, in addition to the handwashing stations set up at the entrances. Large business, such as the Independent Grocery Store or Giant Tiger, Rona and Canadian Tire had traffic management staff at the entrance reminding customers to wear a mask when entering and to wash their hands.
At one Giant Tiger outlet, staff had a stockpile of disposable masks for customers who didn’t have one. The free mask came with a request for a $1 charity donation at the checkout. A Mark’s Work Warehouse outlet and a Shopper’s Drug Mart Pharmacy followed a similar procedure than the Giant Tiger, although there was no request for a donation.
After the grace period expires, the full force of the directive on the mandatory wearing of masks will take effect. Businesses that do not ensure people are masked while inside may receive either warnings or fines for violations.