As we approach the fourth month of this global pandemic, the world is slowly starting to adjust to a "new norm". Restaurants and retail locations have re-opened with certain restrictions, and the number of people allowed at a single gathering continues to increase as the number of COVID-19 cases decrease. So what does this mean for people and business owners that plan to re-open?
Effective on Tuesday July 7, 2020, the City of Toronto implemented a by-law that indicates every person will be required to wear a mask when entering an indoor space. Why only indoors? There is a greater risk of spreading the virus indoors because there is less air flow and less ventilation than there is outdoors. Also, there is less space to maintain distance from others so the risk of coming into contact with the virus increases. All visitors and customers entering indoors will be required to wear a face mask that covers the nose, mouth and chin. However, although masks will be worn people must still maintain social distancing.
A cloth mask is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19. Masks not only are good to protect yourself, but it also protects others. For this reason it is important that we all wear a mask to keep your respiratory drops to yourself and reduce it from landing on surfaces or people and spreading the virus. The City's by-laws outline that everyone who can wear a mask should wear a mask. Research shows that cities that have implemented mandatory masks have seen a significant decrease in the spread of the virus.
A business owner is now required to create a mask policy. They are required to communicate the policy to staff members, train the staff members on the new policy, and ensure that the staff members understand the policy. It is also important that business owners ensure that the policy they have implemented is ready for inspection by health officials in case of an audit. Business owners will now be required to create a sign indicating that the business has a policy and post it anywhere in the business so it is available to see by customers or visitors. Also, your policy should include how to deal with customers who do not wear a mask when entering your establishment or who become aggressive about not wearing a mask even after you've expressed your policy to them. It is important to train your staff on this matter to answer the public appropriately if or when it may occur.
Fines and Penalties
A business or person who choses not to follow the rules and regulations set out in the by-laws is guilty of an offence and can be fined, however the fine amount is not yet known.
There are certain scenarios where people will be exempt from abiding by the rules set out in the by-laws. Children, or people who have medical reasons not to wear a mask such as mental health concern, or hearing impaired can be exempt from wearing a mask. It is important to note that operators are not required to ask for proof of this exemption.
What is the goal?
The goal is to minimize exposure by screening customers for COVID-19, asking people to wash their hands, wear a mask, and follow policies implemented by businesses. it is the business owner’s responsibility to ensure that there is a policy in effect, that training has been completed to ensure staff members are aware of how to handle certain situations, and have a sign indicating what your policy is to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. It is essentially up to you to come up with guidance on how to prevent the spread of the virus.