The region’s top doc said she’s impressed and proud with the way Sudburians are accepting the idea they should be wearing a mask when visiting local businesses.
“Of course this is difficult, and we have been getting some grumblings, which is understandable, but on the whole, people are recognizing that we all have to play our part,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health for Public Health Sudbury and Districts.
With the first day of mask guidelines in Greater Sudbury, as per directives issued July 7 by PHSD, it would seem the majority of residents are donning face coverings.
Well, that actually depends on where you look, but at the New Sudbury Centre, around 2 p.m., most shoppers were wearing a mask or face covering of some sort. Others had masks around their necks, while others simply had no masks at all.
It wasn’t exactly busy in the shopping centre, as one would expect in a pandemic, and stores were only allowing a certain number of customers in at a time.
Security guards were also making an effort to educate shoppers on the new guidelines announced by the health unit.
It was a similar scene at the Silver Hills area off The Kingsway. Many of the businesses had greeters who were educating the public on the new requirements. The employees we talked to said there were very few people who showed up without masks or some sort of face covering, and some who did readily accepted a mask.
Others weren’t so understanding, choosing to ignore the offer, telling employees they just weren’t going to wear a mask.
A brief walkthrough at Chapters, Toys R Us, Marshalls and Best Buy showed a majority of people were complying with the request to wear masks. Those who chose to ignore the request were still permitted in the store, though.
As one employee put it, there wasn’t much that could be done to stop people from not wearing a mask while shopping.
“It’s the end of the first day, and I think we’re seeing a lot more uptake across the city,” said Sutcliffe. “We’re getting a lot of calls and questions from the public and businesses making sure they are doing the right thing.
“We’re doing all we can to make sure it’s as easy as possible for businesses and people to know what is expected of them. We’re in a learning phase right now, and we know it will be patchy with compliance to start, so we have to be patient.”
In order to help, the health unit is creating a draft policy template businesses can use.
Sutcliffe said her message yesterday was to urge businesses to take a strong stance on face coverings, but business owners still have the right to allow people not wearing masks into their business.
In her statement, she said businesses have to ensure effective measures are in place to maintain physical distancing amongst all employees and clients.
Unless the nature of work requires the use of a medical mask, to the fullest extent possible, ensure all individuals wear a non-medical mask (for example, a homemade cloth mask or face covering) when physical distancing is challenging or not possible.
There are exemptions, of course, most notable for small children, for whom wearing a mask is difficult; for persons who are physically challenged and would not be able to remove a mask without assistance; for persons who experience difficulty in breathing; for persons who have medical reasons such a respiratory difficulties or for persons who have religious reasons for not wearing a mask.
She believes, however, businesses should be turning away those people.
“We have a lot of wins in Northern Ontario, and we want to protect those wins, and Public Health Sudbury and Districts is committed to doing its part to support that,” Sutcliffe said.
Wearing a mask is a relatively small price to pay to get schools open and for businesses to get back together, she said.
While it was evident none of the aforementioned businesses were denying entry to people not wearing masks, the issue was certainly more noticeable in the downtown core, where there was a marked decrease in masks and other face coverings.
While there are certainly exceptions, there were lineups inside some food outlets where not a single person was observed wearing a mask.
Furthermore, the City of Greater Sudbury said in accordance with the health unit’s instructions, anyone attending the downtown transit terminal, or boarding and riding a bus, would be required to wear a face covering or non-medical mask.
Observing the buses come and go at the terminal, and the people lined up to board a bus, it was clear the majority felt it unnecessary to adhere to the new instructions. More people there were not wearing masks than any other area of the city observed on Wednesday. In fact, two bus drivers were seen not wearing a mask, either.
Sudbury.com asked in its poll today whether business owners would stop someone from entering their business if they didn’t have a face covering.
As of 4:15 p.m., the question had elicited 932 votes, and the results aren’t one-sided. There were also 275 comments on Facebook and the responses were varied.
One respondent said where she works, people who aren’t wearing a mask aren’t being turned away. Employees are being “told to be nice and leave them be.”
According to the latest polls, most people support the wearing of masks, said another.
“I sure hope Sudbury businesses do stop people from entering their business if they are not wearing a mask. Just follow the Public Health recommendations people. It's not that hard to wear a mask for a few minutes while in a store.”
“I can't wait to see which businesses are going to be enforcing this, because businesses that don't aren't going to be getting my money,” said another.
On the other end of the spectrum are comments like this:
“They stop you from entering, shop elsewhere and let em sink,” and “If I’m refused entry because I have no mask, I will be going elsewhere.”