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Face coverings will be encouraged, not enforced

Tay Township is posting signs and issuing gentle reminders to ensure residents adhere to the face-mask policy

Tay has passed a face-covering policy to reinforce the mandate laid out by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit earlier this month.

"It's an education piece," said CAO Lindsay Barron while talking to MidlandToday about the face-covering policy approved at council's recent meeting.

It's not just residents that are being asked to use a face covering, defined as a medical or a non-medical mask or other face covering, such as a bandana, scarf or cloth (including hijab and niqab) that covers the nose, mouth and chin, it's also staff and council, she said.

"Once staff come back to the municipal offices, they won't need to wear masks because we've got enough space for them to socially distance," said Barron. "Once the building opens to the public, we've got (plexiglass) barriers up so staff and the public would be protected. But if staff have to go out to the lobby to interact with a customer, they would have to wear a mask. And the visiting resident will have to wear a mask as well."

For this purpose, she added, staff have been provided with two washable, reusable masks each and disposable masks will also be available for emergencies. 

So far, Barron said, there is no enforcement in terms of fines or charges being laid by municipal bylaw.

"The health unit is approaching this from an education point of view," she said. "The enforcement will be more gentle reminders and providing people masks if they don't have one. There are no penalties associated with not wearing a mask. The municipality hasn't passed any bylaws around it."

And Barron said the education will be done through signs being posted at all municipal buildings and through "gentle reminders" for those who are able to wear a mask but aren't doing so.  

She added that the policy does outline exceptions to the rule.

The policy states that the following persons are exempted from wearing a face covering and are not required to provide proof of such exemption:

  • The person is a child under the age of two years; or is a child under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally and they refuse to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver.
  • The person is incapacitated and unable to remove their face covering without assistance.
  • Wearing a face covering would inhibit the person’s ability to breathe such as, but not limited to, during moderate to intense physical activity (such as running) or activity that would preclude its use (such as swimming).
  • For any other medical reason, the person cannot safely wear a face covering such as, but not limited to, respiratory disease, cognitive difficulties or difficulties in hearing or processing information.
  • The person cannot wear a face covering for any religious reason.

The policy is now in effect, and Barron said, as far as she knows there is no timeline for when the requirement to cover faces will come to an end.