If you're shopping or working at a retail store in Grey Bruce, the region's medical officer of health says you should wear a mask.
Dr. Ian Arra is making the recommendation as economic restrictions begin to ease and physical distancing becomes more of a challenge in some settings with more people bound to interact.
Garden centres, nurseries and hardware stores were permitted to re-open their doors for customers in-store last weekend, while all retailers considered non-essential with street entrances are now able to offer curbside pick-up and delivery. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is also expected to announce further details on the first stage of re-opening the province's economy Thursday afternoon.
Dr. Arra says when worn properly, a mask or a face covering can reduce transmission by limiting the spread of infectious droplets.
"A mask does not protect a person wearing the mask from getting the virus," explains Arra. "Rather, it's the opposite. (It) protects people around the person wearing the mask from spreading (the virus) if they were a carrier and the didn't know."
Grey Bruce's medical officer of health stresses masks or face coverings are not a replacement for physical distancing and proper hygiene, but rather another added layer of intervention to prevent the spread of the disease.
Arra credits actions taken by individuals such as physical distancing, hand-washing and isolating when sick for the relatively positive COVID-19 numbers in Grey Bruce to date: zero deaths, zero current hospitalizations and only two active long-term care home outbreaks.
"These things are to continue until the end of the recovery phase if we're going to be successful in controlling the outbreak and protect the most vulnerable," explains Arra.
As for why the recommendation to start wearing a mask or a face covering while at retail stores comes now and not earlier in the pandemic, Arra says it's a question of timing as people tend to fatigue towards prevention measures.
"Implementing everything at the same point is very effective in stopping the transmission," says Arra. "But, it's not effective in the long run because it's not sustainable. People are not going to be comfortable going for weeks and months wearing a mask, and doing all these things. The longer we can wait to implement intervention until it becomes very important to implement and effective to implement, that's the right timing."
Arra notes any handmade mask would be effective for the use being recommended. He says there are many local stores that would provide the service or people can even make their own face covering to wear out shopping.