N.S. to offer free, reusable face masks in some locations
HALIFAX -- On Friday in Nova Scotia, protective face masks must be worn in all indoor public places. However, as businesses prepare for the new rules, some say enforcement is not only impossible - it's not their responsibility.
Thursday proved to be a busy day for those in the mask industry in Nova Scotia.
"We're selling out very quickly," says Maritime Tartan Company owner, Sherrie Kearney. "When we open the website, within an hour or two, we have to close it again – hundreds and hundreds of orders
And it's expected to get much busier when wearing masks becomes mandatory at indoor public places in the province – including restaurants.
"They [patrons] don't have to wear a mask when on the patio, but if they're coming into public spaces, the bathroom, the bar along those lines, they do need to wear a mask in that public space," says Antojo Tacos + Tequila manager, John Whitton. "When they're physically at their table, having their food, having drinks, they don't need to wear a mask."
Whitton says as of Thursday, the majority of customers are not wearing a mask, but he expects that to change. While his restaurant will have masks available, he recommends people bring their own.
"We're not the COVID police – that's not our job as restauranteurs," says Whitton. "Our job is to make sure people feel comfortable and safe. If they have a medical reason or they're just categorically not comfortable wearing a mask, then we'll take that on a case-by-case basis."
Gyms also will have mandatory mask policies.
"We require you to wear a mask in all public spaces, the welcome desk, the hallways, the locker rooms," says Zatzman Sportsplex general manager, Arne Buchanan. "However, when you are actually physically exercising, you will not be required to wear a mask."
On Thursday, the province announced free reusable masks will be offered at all libraries and most museums.
"As well, the province has provided us with reusable masks – so local business owners can contact the library and get a box of 50 reusable masks," says Halifax Public Libraries senior service manager, Kathleen Peverill. "We just ask that they call ahead."
Masks have been mandatory on public transit for a week, but the union representing transit drivers says enforcement is impossible.
"The biggest concern is that it's not being enforced," says Amalgamated Transit Union Local 508 president, Ken Wilson. "Operators are seeing a great deal of passengers with masks on, but they're also seeing a percentage – I'd say about 15 per cent of the passengers throughout the day not wearing masks."
Nova Scotia's health minister, Randy Delorey, hopes to focus on education, not enforcement – but the option to fine individuals remains.
"The legislation and the order do stipulate that failure to adhere to the order, you could be subject to fines and other provisions," said Delorey, during a press conference.
Meanwhile, businesses and residents in Nova Scotia continue to adapt to the new normal.