Ontario government strongly encourages masks. Here's where things stand in Windsor-Essex

The County of Essex in southwestern Ontario is mandating the wearing of masks at its facilities starting Tuesday. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
The County of Essex in southwestern Ontario is mandating the wearing of masks at its facilities starting Tuesday. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

Masks will soon be mandatory inside Essex County facilities amid a strong surge in respiratory illnesses across Ontario.

As of Tuesday at 8 a.m. ET, anyone entering an Essex County facility such as the Civic Centre, Sun Parlor Home and library branches will be required to wear a medical-grade mask, the county said in a media release on Monday.

The policy applies to the public as well as staff, and masks will be available at building entrances.

On Monday, Ontario's Chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, strongly recommended that people start to wear masks in all indoor public settings, including in schools and child-care settings. But, Moore stopped short of recommending a return to a mask mandate in the province.

At a news conference, Moore said the province's health system is facing "extraordinary pressures" with the ongoing circulation of COVID-19, the earlier-than-normal rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), as well as influenza.

"What we are facing is a triple threat that requires our collective action and action to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, the very young, the very old and those with underlying medical issues and to ensure that our health-care system remains able to care for Ontarians when they need it," Moore said.

A spokesperson for the City of Windsor said officials are aware of Moore's comments.

"No decisions have been made at this point, but we will continue to monitor the situation and keep residents informed of any potential changes to city facilities."

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) said it recommends that people wear masks indoors and where people cannot maintain two metres of physical distancing.

"The health unit encourages local businesses and organizations to develop and implement policies to decrease the burden of respiratory disease. This includes policies related to wearing a mask," the email reads.

At the start of November, the health unit put out a statement alongside other health leaders, including Essex-Windsor EMS, Windsor Regional Hospital, Erie Shores HealthCare and Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, that expressed concern over the increasing rates of respiratory illness in the community.

As of Nov. 12, respiratory activity in Windsor-Essex was at a "moderate" level for all age groups compared to last week, according to Ontario's Acute Care Enhanced Surveillance (ACES) database.

A spokesperson for the Greater Essex County District School Board told CBC News in an email that it's "unaware" of any formal discussions about reinstating masks within the board, but it will continue to follow the direction of the Ministry of Education and medical professionals.

In an email, a spokesperson for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board said the board will wait to follow any guidance from the Ministry of Education, but will "continue to urge people to follow all public health guidelines, including Dr. Moore's strong recommendation to wear a mask in all public settings."

Last week, the University of Windsor reminded staff, students and visitors that a "strict compliance" to the school's mask policy is required, and it's "strongly recommending" students wear masks at all times while indoors.

Jennifer La Grassa/CBC
Jennifer La Grassa/CBC

CBC News asked people in Windsor to share their thoughts on masking and whether masks should be mandatory in indoor spaces.

Jacob Yak, a Grade 12 student, said he doesn't want to wear masks again and will stay at home if they become mandated in schools.

"I just hate wearing a mask 'cause you know, I'm not comfortable wearing [it]," he said.

But others said a masking policy should be put in place.

Divin Charlyphilip said it would be good to have such a policy to "be on the safer side."

"They should make it mandatory. If the COVID cases are going up again I guess making mask mandatory will help bring it down, I believe," he said, adding that most of the time, he is wearing a mask indoors.

Manuel Perez agreed people should wear masks, but said the province recommending but not mandating masks is "confusing."

"When it's necessary [to mask], you have to do it. It's for the benefit of all of us," he said.

What do you think?

CBC Windsor wants to hear from you. Will you be wearing a mask more often? Or maybe you never stopped. Will your holiday plans change?

Let us know by filling out the form below: