The Old Massett emergency operations centre (EOC) issued a mandatory face mask notice on Wednesday (Aug. 5), one day before Haida Gwaii reported two new cases of the novel coronavirus.
The EOC announced that effective immediately and until further notice, masks are mandatory to be worn by Old Massett residents when they are outside of their homes.
However, the notice also asked residents not to pass judgment on others they may see not wearing masks due to pre-existing medical conditions.
“We ask that everyone who has the ability to wear a mask to do so, so we can protect those who are unable to wear a mask due to medical conditions,” the notice said.
The next day, on Aug. 6, two new cases of the virus were confirmed on the islands, for a total of 26 since the first case was reported on July 17.
According to Northern Health, 20 of the cases have recovered and six were still active as of Friday morning.
The Old Massett Village Council also announced enforcement measures for the 9:30 p.m. curfew the EOC put in place last month.
According to a letter shared with community members on Aug. 7, anyone who violates the curfew going forward will owe one hour of community service, tracked by the Haida Gwaii Restorative Justice Program. For every 15 minutes past 10 p.m., an additional hour of community service will be added.
“Many community members have asked ‘what are the consequences of violating the curfew?’” the letter said. “This is a good question and it’s unfortunate that some people need consequences to practice safety for themselves and others.”
Exceptions include anyone going to and from the Masset hospital, taking care of an elder in need of emergency support, pre-approved by the EOC to enter or exit the community, driving to or from the ferry or accompanying the RCMP, as well as emergency situations, such as tsunami evacuations.
All minors in violation will be the responsibility of the parent of guardian, in which both will have to complete the community hours.
Mandatory face masks were in the news throughout the week, with Alberta announcing on Aug. 4 that masks will be required in schools when they reopen in the fall, even as B.C. schools are set to open with no such mandate, and Walmart making masks mandatory for customers across Canada as of Aug. 12.
Eighty-two doctors and dentists also addressed an open letter to Premier John Horgan, health minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, calling for the use of mandatory masks in the province.
The group, Masks4Canada, says face coverings should be worn in all indoor spaces outside homes, in public transportation or among crowds.
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