WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has issued a class order making face masks mandatory at commercial establishments and outlined the specific details involved.

This new class order will be effective 12:01 a.m. on Friday, June 26.

It requires all owners or operators of a commercial establishment in Windsor-Essex to prohibit the entry of any person who is not wearing a face covering, unless the person cannot wear one due to medical reasons or age.

Under section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, the medical officer of health may issue an order to limit the spread of communicable disease in the community.

Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed announced Friday that he would be updating his recommendation on the use of face coverings in public settings where physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

To prepare for the reopening of more businesses in the region of Windsor-Essex and to further protect the community from COVID-19, Ahmed is announced the class order on Tuesday.

Who is required to wear a face covering?

The order applies to any customer, patron, employee or visitor, who enters the commercial establishment.

The face covering must be worn inside the establishment at all times, unless it is reasonably required to temporarily remove the face covering for services provided by the establishment.

A person shall be exempt from wearing a face covering on the premises if:

  • The Person is a child under the age of two years; or a child under the age of 5 years either chronologically or developmentally and he or she refuses to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver;
  • Wearing a Face Covering would inhibit the Person’s ability to breathe in any way;c.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.
  • For any religious reason, the Person cannot wear a face covering, or cannot do a face covering in a manner that would properly control source

Best efforts when restricting entry to customers wearing Face Coverings are defined as follows:

  • That establishment are required to post appropriate visible signage indicating that Face Coverings are required inside the establishment.Sample signagecan be found on the workplace section of in multiple languages.
  • Where an establishment has a person restricting occupancy into the commercial establishment, a verbal reminder of that the customer should be wearing a Face Covering as a result of this order shall be given to any customer entering the premises without one. For greater clarity, there is not a need for a business to turn away the customer to achieve the best effort standard.
  • For customers in store seen removing their Face Covering for extended periods of time, a verbal reminder to that customer of the requirement to wear Face Coverings under this order.

Face coverings are defined as:

A Face Covering means a medical mask or a non-medical mask or other face coverings such as a bandana, a scarf or cloth (including hijab and niqab) that covers the mouth, and nose ensuring a barrier that limits the community transmission

Commercial establishments as defined in the order include any place that are open to the public and offer goods and/or services for sale including:

  • Retail stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Malls/plazas
  • Restaurants
  • Personal service settings
  • Grocery stores and bakeries
  • Gas stations
  • Farmer’s markets
  • Mechanic shops and car dealerships

The following are not subject to this order even if they would otherwise fall within the definition of a commercial establishment:

  • Churches or faith settings
  • Day camps •Day care centres
  • Schools
  • Libraries
  • Community centres
  • Offices that are not open to members of the public
  • Professional offices where clients receive purchased services (e.g. lawyer’s/accountant’s office) that are not open to members of the public
  • Private transportation (bus/taxi/limo)
  • Hospitals
  • Independent health facilities
  • Offices of regulated health professionals
  • Golf courses
  • Fitness facilities/gyms

The areas of a commercial establishment that are subject to the face covering requirements of this order are:

  • Any areas in which customers interact with one another or with staff members, OR
  • Any areas that are open or accessible to members of the public
  • Except where: The area is outside, whether or not the area is covered (e.g. a restaurant patio)

Health officials say COVID-19 is spread from person to person through infected respiratory droplets when individuals are in close contact. When worn appropriately non-medical facemasks can be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 from person to person.

Combined with regular hand washing with soap and water, maintaining physical distancing where possible, avoiding touching your face and staying home if sick, WECHU officials say the additional measure will ensure that the region is ready to move to Stage 2 safely and securely.

“Maintaining physical distancing, washing your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizer, staying home when you are ill, coughing and sneezing into a tissue or sleeve, regular cleaning and disinfecting and avoiding crowds are still the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19,” says Ahmed.

“However, in public settings where physical distancing is not possible, to protect yourself and others wearing a facemask is recommended and will now be enforced through this class order for commercial establishments,” he adds.

More details of the order issued and frequently asked questions are on the WECHU website.