There is no “army of face mask enforcers” waiting in the shadows to fine businesses not complying with new directives to have in place a policy to encourage patrons to wear a mask or face covering while shopping, said the area’s medical officer of health this week.
This week as it became mandatory for businesses to have such policies, there is still some confusion circulating about enforcement and fines for non-compliance with directives from Public Health Sudbury and Districts.
Yes, the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which is currently in effect until July 22 — and possibly beyond, should Premier Doug Ford extend it again — gives bylaw enforcement, police officers and public health inspectors the power to fine businesses for not putting in place a policy to ensure patrons are wearing masks or face coverings.
In general, if someone commits an offence under the Act, which includes someone not being compliant with an order, it could carry a fine. It was a similar situation when the province banned gatherings of more than five people.
But, said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health, it is not the intention to start issuing fines for businesses that don’t have a policy in place.
“We’re not talking about that, we’re not talking about fining businesses thousands of dollars, and to be very clear, the expectations are that we work together and have these policies in place and enact them to the best of their abilities,” Sutcliffe said. “We are doing this from a good faith perspective in terms of enforcement. People are really trying to do their best to comply as best they can.”
In fact, to help businesses comply with the order, the health unit has created a draft policy template business owners can use. It will be posted on the health unit’s website.
“These instructions are issued under an emergency order, and there is a very robust enforcement framework in place,” Sutcliffe said. “However, there isn’t an army of face mask enforcers out there. It’s really about all of us being in this together, from the health unit creating the expectation of the businesses, the businesses making their best effort to inform their clients, and then everyone complying the best they can so that ultimately our health is protected.”
It would not be in a business’ best interests to have such noncompliance that they would be risking the safety of their own employees or the community, and have another COVID-19 outbreak and then have to close down, she said.
“It’s in all of our best interest to work on this together,” Sutcliffe said. “We are developing practices to protect businesses and residents not just into the summer, but into the fall and the second wave. We all have the same goals and the same ends we are trying to achieve, to get back our normal lives.”