The large exhale of breath local residents would have heard emanating from Shire Hall on Tuesday night- if in-person council meetings were still a thing there in the days of COVID-19- would have been measurable on decibel meters throughout Prince Edward County.
The reason for our purported sigh of relief by the councillors in favour of a bylaw requiring masks in public places in Prince Edward County is that Hastings Prince Edward Public Health took almost all of the debate and decision process out of the hands of local government by mandating their own mask requirements in businesses and commercial establishments on Friday.
Thankfully, Council went a step further and amended the bylaw to require masks in all public places. If you’re in favour of mask wearing the pandemic, sometimes having a governing health body rush to the forefront and mandate such a policy while taking it out of the hands municipal decision makers isn’t the worst piece of news in the world.
And it’s clear, an increasing majority of Canadians agree with mask wearing. A July 5 Leger poll indicated 86 per cent of respondents believe wearing a mask on public transit should be mandated. Our own Wellings of Picton poll at pictongazette.ca this week indicated nearly 75 per cent of respondents are already wearing masks in public spaces in Prince Edward County.
Up until this mandate, mask wearing has been a personal choice.
For myself, I was only an occasional mask wearer up until the last weekend in June. Decreasing active cases in Hastings-Prince Edward and regular doses of hand sanitizer as well as the act of social distancing in high volume areas gave me just enough confidence to go about life sans-mask in a remote COVID-19 reality.
Then Summer tourist season hit Prince Edward County and whatever half-baked notion I had about a potential pandemic vice restricting the flow of traffic onto this island vanished. If you doubt the potential for Prince Edward County to become a pandemic petri dish with elements sprinkled in from across Ontario and Quebec, carve out an hour and take a drive down Picton’s Main Street on Saturday afternoon. We’d say head to a local beach and survey the scene but that could require days.
Yes, some folks are coming to the County with masks and are practicing social distancing and we must say, a good number of local businesses are doing all they can to ensure all the rules and regulations are being met. Thank you all for your efforts.
But in a lot of cases, there are large groups, congregated in closer-than-acceptable proximity and without any inclination to wear a facial coverings. The scenes are jarring and we worry not about the visitor so much but the young people working in the service industries being exposed.
Prince Edward County has the potential to become novel coronavirus no man’s land between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal and given the intermingling and transient nature of this municipality in the summertime, it will be impossible to contact trace if-and-when there’s a COVID-19 outbreak.
In Prince Edward County residents and visitors alike must embrace mask culture today and ride this new normal until our health officials provide the all clear.
It is the only way to ensure we all see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in good health.
PICTURING OUR COMMUNITY