Eastern Ontario mask rule here for at least three months

Dr. Paula Stewart, Medical Officer of Health for the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District region, during the July 6 Zoom media conference announcing the mask rule.

EASTERN ONTARIO — In effect as of today, Eastern Ontarians are compelled by law to wear masks when visiting indoor public spaces for at least the next three months.

The three-month timeline was revealed as the effective minimum yesterday by Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paula Stewart, during a virtual media conference involving four area health units jointly imposing the mask-wearing measure in their respective territories covering a broad area from Brockville to Ottawa and Cornwall and the countryside in-between.

The majority of the involved jurisdictions have imposed the rule with “open-ended” timing, subject to regular review, but Dr. Stewart clarified that she’s implementing it for three months because her community didn’t want the open-ended approach. That timing “takes us to the end of September,” she observed. “We should be in stage three by then, we should have a sense of all that opening, what impact it has…. So I think that that’s a good place to pause. We’ll have conversations with businesses and with the public …”

“I’m expecting it would be a miracle if we truly escaped the fall without serious questions. So we’ll review it then, and I think that’s a good time to do it.”

The four involved medical officers of health have immediately imposed the rule using their powers under the province’s state of emergency declaration. They are acting as a united front on the rollout of mandatory masks.

Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis couldn’t provide a “definite answer” on when the restriction might be lifted, but certainly didn’t suggest he would break ranks and pull it earlier than three months from now.

“We do not have a definite timeline,” said Dr. Roumeliotis. “I’ve left it open-ended; I know that others have left it for three months…. As long as necessary, as long as we have reason to continue, we will.”

In Ottawa, the medical officer of health will seek a municipal bylaw to buttress the measure. And that bylaw, said Dr. Vera Etches, “will be subject to regular ongoing review.”

Enforcement of the mask rule with fines — “in the hundreds of dollars,” according to Roumeliotis — won’t begin until July 14th to allow for a grace period.

Below, Ottawa Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches, Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis and colleagues in the region talk about the new indoor mask rule being imposed across a broad swath of Eastern Ontario.
Below, Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis delivers an update on the local COVID-19 situation, with further remarks on the mask rule.

See NVN’s Facebook poll on the subject, below.

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