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Norfolk County has passed a bylaw requiring the use of a mask or face covering inside enclosed public places.

Council passed the bylaw, aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, at a special meeting July 24.

Properly worn non-medical masks and face coverings have been shown to inhibit respiratory particles – potentially infected with the virus – which are expelled when breathing, coughing, or sneezing. They should be used in combination with frequent hand washing and social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“This is an unprecedented, difficult time in Norfolk County’s history,” says Mayor Kristal Chopp. “As a community, we have been faced with enormous challenges over the last number of months, and we have come together to meet those challenges. I know that not everyone agrees with this decision, but I also know that – bylaw or not – we all want to do what’s best for this community. As more and more businesses start to re-open, it is critical that we all take the precautions necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19, and avoid a second wave of the virus – as well as what would likely be a disastrous second economic shutdown.”

The bylaw requires all those who operate an enclosed public place (any place where goods or services are available in a building or portion of a building and is accessible to the public) to adopt a face mask policy.

Examples of such places include grocery stores, shops, malls and plazas, convenience stores, recreational facilities and gyms, theatres and personal service settings.

The bylaw also requires the posting of signage indicating that wearing a mask is necessary to enter the space.

The bylaw exempts:

  • Children aged two years or younger and those between the ages of three and five who cannot be persuaded to wear a mask
  • Those with underlying medical conditions (permitted to wear a face shield, instead) or who are unable to place or remove a mask without assistance
  • Staff working in an area reserved solely for employee use

Council also amended the proposed bylaw to exempt staff who can maintain a six foot distance from others or who work behind a physical barrier.

Proof of an exemption is not required, and the public is asked to be respectful of those who may be exempt from wearing a mask.

Masks can also be removed while eating, drinking or engaging in athletic activity.

All staff who work in locations covered by the bylaw must be trained in their establishment’s face mask policy.

Certain facilities – such as those operated by the County and other levels of government – are technically exempt from the bylaw, given the difficulties inherent in the County enforcing the bylaw on itself, the Province, or the Federal government.

This does not necessarily mean these locations do not require the wearing of a mask.

The County is developing its own mask policy, and the public will be required to wear a mask when entering any Norfolk County facility, such as the Robinson Administration Building or Waterford Tricenturena, and when boarding a Ride Norfolk bus.

Details and resources will soon be available at norfolkcounty.ca/covid-19.