P.E.I. to make masks mandatory in indoor public spaces; no new cases of COVID-19
HALIFAX -- As of midnight Thursday, people in Prince Edward Island will have to wear a face mask in all indoor public spaces.
“Now is the time for Islanders to use all the tools in our public health toolbox to fight against COVID-19," said Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief medical officer of health, during a news conference on Tuesday.
"While many Islanders are wearing masks faithfully, we can do a better job to protect ourselves and others."
Indoor public spaces include, but are not limited to, stores and indoor businesses, restaurants and bars -- except for while eating or drinking -- arts, sports and recreational facilities, places of worship, government buildings, workplaces, taxis and public transit.
Schools and healthcare facilities already have their own mask policies, which will continue.
"Our approach to enforcement of mandatory masks will be cooperative, rather than punitive," said Morrison. "Much like our neighbours in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, we are trusting Islanders to do the right thing and routinely wear a mask in public places."
Exceptions include children under the age of two, children under five who will not wear a mask, anyone who cannot wear a mask without assistance, and valid medical reasons, such as active breathing problems, although Morrison says most people with underlying medical conditions can wear a mask safely.
"Even when wearing a mask, it is important to maintain a distance of six feet from people outside of your household," she added.
“This is not an easy announcement for us to make. Not because of what we are asking Islanders to do, but mainly because it is no fault of our own or anyone in this province that we have to impose further restrictions," added P.E.I. Premier Dennis King.
NO NEW COVID-19 CASES
No new cases of COVID-19 were reported in P.E.I. on Tuesday.
It has been six days since the Island's last case was reported on Nov. 11.
That case involved a man in his 30s who works as a rotational worker. He recently returned to P.E.I. from domestic travel outside the Atlantic Bubble.
The man tested negative on Nov. 6, but later tested positive following a second test on Nov. 10. The man and six close contacts will remain in self-isolation for 14 days.
P.E.I. also issued a pair of potential exposure advisories in connection with the Nov. 10 case.
- Red and White Hardware Store in Ellerslie on Nov. 9 between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
- Walmart in Summerside on Nov. 10 between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.
The province has three active cases. All three are self-isolating.
P.E.I. has had a total of 68 positive cases of COVID-19, all of which have been related to travel.
Sixty-five previously-reported cases are now considered recovered, leaving three active cases in the province.
The province had completed 51,022 negative tests as of Tuesday.
TRAVELLING FOR CHRISTMAS
Any Islanders who will be travelling outside the bubble for Christmas must apply for reentry approval by Dec. 1 indicating when they are reentering, so that extra monitoring staff can be hired if necessary.
Morrison is also recommending that Islanders do not travel off of P.E.I. over the holidays.
"This year is like no other. Given the incidence of COVID-19 across Canada, I do not recommend that anyone travel outside of P.E.I. over the holidays," said Morrison. "This is the year to connect with loved ones virtually, or by phone, or by letter."
Morrison says she also recommends that individuals, including students, don't travel to P.E.I. for the holidays.
"Holiday gatherings should be kept small to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. While the personal gathering limit is 20 people, that is only permitted if we can maintain physical distancing, and smaller is only better," said Morrison. "Use your judgement and common sense, and only invite the amount of people into your home that can be safely accomodated while maintaining physical distancing."
NEW RULES FOR ROTATIONAL WORKERS
Morrison also announced new rules for rotational workers travelling onto P.E.I.
Going forward, rotational workers travelling onto P.E.I. are to avoid public places until their 14-day self-isolation period is complete. That includes schools, stores, malls, banks, places of worship, gyms and restaurants.
Rotational workers also should not visit or host people from outside their household, until their self-isolation period is complete.
Morrison says rotational workers will still be able to spend time with their family, go for walks off their property while maintaining physical distancing, and access drive-thru or contactless restaurants, groceries, medication and banking, and attend necessary medical or dental appointments.
“Our office recognizes that rotational workers are at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, however, many rotational workers are in P.E.I. for short amounts of time, and it is important for them to see their families," said Morrison.
Morrison says at least a third of the province’s 68 cases involved workers that have had to travel on or off the Island for work.
ADDITIONAL SCREENING, CHANGES TO LONG-TERM VISITATION TO COME
P.E.I. public health also says there will be additional screening measures in place at all points of entry to the province by the end of the week.
"Individuals will be advised of the requirement to wear masks in all public places, reminded of other public health measures in place and encouraged to download COVID-19 Alert App on their smartphones," said Morrison.
Morrison also says the province is working with long-term care and community care facilities to discuss potential changes in visitation guidelines, and will have more information by next week.
"It is important for us to balance the safety of seniors and others who live in care facilities with the need for them to socialize and spend time with their loved ones," said Morrison.