By Chad Ingram
As of Monday, the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit has mandated that face masks be worn within commercial establishments and indoor public spaces within its jurisdiction amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This will continue to be the case after Friday, when Haliburton County and many other parts of Ontario enter Stage 3 of the provincial government's COVID-19 recovery process. In fact, according to the health unit, “Although we have seen a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in our area, we want to be sure we continue to see a decrease as we move towards the reopening of more businesses within the province.”
Mandatory masks have been met with some resistance, some espousing the view that it's somehow a trampling of their rights, an impingement of their freedoms. It's not, or at least not any more than any law that governs what most would consider our fairly civil society. Every single law is an impingement on individual freedoms in the name of the greater good. It's the social contract that governs our civilization. The law that says I can't drive as fast as I feel like impinges my freedom, as does the law that says I can't just walk into a store and steal whatever I feel like, or the one that says I can't slap you across the face with a glove if you say something outrageous.
Mandated face masks are a requirement from public health agencies to keep as many people as possible safe during an ongoing global health crisis. Yes, there has been inconsistent messaging on this during the coronavirus outbreak. At first we were told that it didn't seem they offered any benefit, but to wear one if it made us feel comfortable, and that message has since changed to say that wearing masks can help protect others if we are carriers of the virus. It's important to remember the global scientific community is still grappling with a new virus, and there are still many unanswered questions about how it operates, how long it can linger, re-infection, etc.
Many of us have already been wearing face masks while shopping for some time. It might be a bit inconvenient, sure, but it's really not a big deal. There are also exemptions for those with certain health conditions, etc.
Also, please don't be a mask bully. That is, if you see someone without a mask on, just assume they have a good reason and leave them alone. It's up to business owners, not you, to police that. We've been living with this crisis for four months now, are still a long way from the finish line, and many of us are tired, irritable and anxious. Getting into a confrontation with a stranger over face masks isn't going to be helpful for anybody.
Wearing a mask is easy and has potentially very beneficial effects, like not killing someone. You can also find some pretty styling handmade ones now, if you're so inclined. COVID-19 numbers in Ontario have been dropping for weeks, and we've certainly done a good job in the county, with just 10 confirmed cases in four months, all of them now considered resolved. Let's keep it going.