Businesses adjusting to reduced mask wearing indoors on P.E.I.

·3 min read
Mary Beth Campbell says some customers ask when entering to see if they need to wear a mask while others just put one on when they see staff wearing them. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC - image credit)
Mary Beth Campbell says some customers ask when entering to see if they need to wear a mask while others just put one on when they see staff wearing them. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC - image credit)

Some local businesses on P.E.I. say the province's decision to suddenly drop the mask requirements in indoor spaces caught them off guard.

Premier Dennis King made the announcement during a COVID-19 briefing last Friday, saying provincial milestones were taking place sooner than they had originally planned.

The change came into effect at noon that day, meaning the first some business owners heard about it was when customers began removing masks in their stores.

"I heard it from a few people walking into the store without masks, and they were celebrating, and it definitely threw me off, because I hadn't heard it yet," said Mary Beth Campbell of Luxury Market Consignment Boutique in Charlottetown.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

People who work with the public are still advised to wear a mask indoors.

Campbell said so far it has been a mix of customers choosing to wear a mask and those who don't.

"A lot of times when they see us wearing them they actually do put them on which is great," Campbell said. "But if the store is not really busy and they are keeping away from everyone, it doesn't seem to be a huge issue."

She said she knows it is uncomfortable to wear a mask but thinks it would have been easier to keep the mandate in place until the province had fully opened up to the rest of Canada so the decision wouldn't rest on businesses.

Other businesses also would have preferred more notice so that stores and staff could come up with a plan around what they'd ask of their own staff and customers, when it comes to masks.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

"If you're telling us Friday, could we not have waited until Monday?" said Lori Cheverie with Bookmark Charlottetown.

"Give us some time to absorb it — especially people who are going to be affected by this the most. That would have been kinder to us I think."

Some places still require masks

Masks are still required indoors in certain settings, like health-care facilities and the airport.

Doug Newson, CEO of Charlottetown Airport, said in a written statement on Monday that they will "continue to evaluate policies in the coming days and weeks, and make adjustments as we see fit."

He said it can be hard to social distance in airports — especially as passenger movements start to increase.

"Transport Canada still requires passengers to wear masks during screening, boarding, on the aircraft, and disembarking," Newson said.

To be consistent with the federal measures, they will continue to require masks inside at the airport but will re-evaluate as things move forward.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said people should still wear masks until they are fully vaccinated.

She said masks are just one tool in a basket of measures in defence against COVID, including physical distancing, handwashing, and restrictions at provincial borders to keep COVID-19 out.

It's now up to the consumer to decide for themselves for most day-to-day shopping — and some businesses are pleased to be able to resume face-to-face interactions.

"I was very excited," said Crystal Hardy, manager at Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown. "Nice to be able to see everybody's faces smiling. Just seeing everybody out and knowing who you are talking to again."

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

Hardy said she feels Morrison is doing a wonderful job and is confident they will let people know if the situation changes and masks become mandatory once again.

Morrison said the decision was made based on current epidemiology and will continue to be evaluated if or when the situation changes.

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