Haldimand entering Stage 3, Will masks soon be mandatory in indoor public spaces?

By Haldimand Press Staff

HALDIMAND—Haldimand and Norfolk counties will move to Stage 3 of the Province’s reopening plan Friday, Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday, July 20, 2020. Haldimand Norfolk had been among 10 regions to be held back as it entered Stage 2 later due to the outbreak of COVID-19 at a Vittoria farm shortly before others advanced. Toronto, Peel, and Windsor-Essex remain in Stage 2 as they were also the last to progress from Stage 1.

In Stage 3, social gathering limits increase to a maximum of 50 people indoors, and 100 outdoors. Most businesses will be able to reopen, with restrictions, when owners feel it is safe to do so, including movie theatres, gyms, and indoor dining. Playgrounds are also permitted to open as of Friday and County staff will be readying the playgrounds over the next number of days.

Haldimand County released a press release on July 22 stating that staff are currently working to reopen arenas and walking tracks. Community halls may begin renting facilities (if they choose) for events that comply with Stage 3 requirements. Though pavilions are now open for use, bookings for private/organized functions at pavilions will not be taken for the remainder of summer.

“Haldimand County continues to take a gradual, phased approach to reopening facilities that align with provincial guidelines and keep the safety of staff and the community top-of-mind,” said Mayor Ken Hewitt. “As more facilities reopen and gathering restrictions loosen, I ask that everyone remain patient and continue being vigilant in their efforts to combat the virus,” Hewitt noted, adding that community efforts to date have largely influenced Haldimand’s progression into Stage 3.

MPP Toby Barrett put out a press release on July 20 as well, which stated that Stage 3 will allow more tourism destinations to reopen “so locals can enjoy what makes this area unique.”

“The government is encouraging people to come out and safely explore and enjoy their local attractions, patios, and shops while continuing to follow health guidelines,” said the release. See the full release on Page 2.

According to the Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU), which follows the guidelines of provincial and federal health authorities, “Residents should continue to practice social distancing, wash their hands frequently, and wear a face covering when maintaining distance is a challenge.”

The Haldimand Press published an online, informal poll asking people the above question. The poll was available at haldimandpress.com from July 13 to July 20, 2020. A total of 393 responses were recorded.

While HNHU is recommending residents wear masks when entering public buildings, the Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, has yet to make an order mandating their use for the general public. While Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt has previously expressed support for individuals choosing to wear masks, he has raised concerns about the ability of the County and HNHU to enforce any mandates that require masks. Haldimand Council has not put forward any motion thus far to mandate masks, but released a statement this week that there is pressure to do so.

“We continue to seek advice from our local Medical Officer and the Public Health unit on how we can be best prepared,” said the letter signed by Mayor Ken Hewitt. “The topic of masks keeps coming up and while it should not be mandated, people should be taking all recommended precautions …. I have been in conversation with Council, and through them the local businesses and Chambers of Commerce and the majority of our local businesses are asking that Haldimand pass a bylaw to make the wearing of masks mandatory within their locations.”

Ward 3 Councillor Dan Lawrence specifically asked Caledonia business owners to let him know if they want masks mandated. On July 20, Kathy Marshall of the Caledonia BIA posted to Facebook that so far 44 businesses had responded ‘yes’ and 23 had responded ‘no’, making 66% in support at that time. Caledonia businesses who had yet to respond to the survey were welcomed to email their response to Lawrence at

dlawrence@

haldimandcounty.on.ca.

The Haldimand Press held an informal poll on the subject as well, which ran from July 13 to July 20. This poll showed opinions to be relatively split, with 47.84% voting against mandatory masks and 52.16% voting in favour. A breakdown of the results is shown (at right).

Joanne Gilmour voted in favour, stating, “Having a vote in a community that was among the last to enter Stage 3 is ludicrous! Masks are already mandatory in many communities, and everyone is on board. Let’s move forward not backwards.”

Lee Bowen agreed, stating, “With the amount of out-of-town traffic our county gets from visitors from Hamilton and Toronto, it is ludicrous that we have not yet mandated mask wearing! We must wear a mask in every other county around us, except Norfolk, in order to protect their citizens, why shouldn’t they wear masks here to protect our citizens? I can’t believe our two counties are still debating! There is no debate – mandate masks!”

Nicole Henson commented against mandating masks: “How about let people make their own informed medical decisions (and) not let a politician do it for you? If you let that happen then you’re letting them control you. I for one will NOT be wearing one as I suffer from severe claustrophobia and have suffered from heat stroke one too many times in my life so far.”

Karen Clemmens-Whittington believes it should be on individual businesses to decide: “Let the stores and business demand it for their own property. All it takes is a

sign on their door.”

Norfolk Council met on July 21 to discuss the issue. Hewitt said, “Since we share the same public health unit, we believe that it is imperative that the bylaw in Norfolk should resemble Haldimand. For that reason I have been in discussion with both counties’ Chief Administrative Officers and (Norfolk) Mayor Chopp to ensure that we are working together on this.”

Hewitt said the Health & Social Services Advisory Committee heard from Nesathurai last week: “It is his belief that masks do help prevent the spread of the virus and he encourages an aggressive education plan to help businesses and members of the public better understand the importance of

wearing masks in public.”

“As in the past, I respect the members of our health unit and their expertise,” continued Hewitt. “I don’t always agree, but at this time we are asking staff to review the current mask bylaws out there and to shape something that best meets the needs of Haldimand. I understand that Norfolk will be doing the same and that both CAOs will be bringing a draft bylaw back to both Mayor Chopp and myself for executive authority.”

Full details on Stage 3 can be found at

ontario.ca/page/framework-reopening-our-province-stage-3.

Local updates continue to be provided at

hnhu.org/covid-19.

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