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LETTER: Require masks in certain settings, please

Some of the 100 reusable/washable face masks Vallie’s Hair Shop in Glace Bay and Dominion have had made by Yvonne Kennedy in preparation for Friday's reopening. Sharon Montgomery-Dupe/Cape Breton Post
Masks in a hair salon - SaltWire File Photo

The lax approach to face masks in public could push the Newfoundland and Labrador economy off a cliff.

I am writing to express my concerns regarding the lack of integration of face masks in public as we progress through less restrictive alert levels.  I believe that it would be wise for our province to require masks be worn in public where the ability to practice social distancing cannot be adequately guaranteed.  

These locations should include all supermarkets, hospitals, retail stores, restaurants and any place of business where people are indoors and are forced to be in close proximity to others. This policy should apply equally to both staff and patrons.  

Requiring face masks in public would be a significant step toward helping us achieve all three of these objectives. While face masks are not a panacea that stops the spread of COVID-19, they are a proven barrier for transmission and coupled with continued adherence to social- distancing guidelines and commitment to hygiene, it would put us in a better position to confront the challenges that lay ahead as we continue to navigate this global health crisis.

Recommendations regarding the use of face masks in public have been confusing.

Early policy was influenced by the justified fear of personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages and the effect that requiring masks in public would have on frontline supply.  

This was a very unfortunate circumstance that we found ourselves in. As we move toward opening our economy and establishing a new normal while we eagerly await breakthroughs in therapeutics and vaccines, we should be taking all reasonable precautions to slow the spread of the disease, mitigate the risk of future outbreaks and prevent further damage to our already fragile provincial economy.  

Requiring face masks in public would be a significant step toward helping us achieve all three of these objectives. While face masks are not a panacea that stops the spread of COVID-19, they are a proven barrier for transmission and coupled with continued adherence to social- distancing guidelines and commitment to hygiene, it would put us in a better position to confront the challenges that lay ahead as we continue to navigate this global health crisis.

IMPACT ON ECONOMY

The negative consequences of a second shutdown on our economy should not be understated.  Prior to the outbreak, it is fair to say, Newfoundland and Labrador’s financial situation was dire.  After the past two decades of gross financial mismanagement by both governing parties and the sad and embarrassing squandering of our natural resource wealth, we are more in debt today than at any point in our province’s history. I believe a second shutdown would prove to be catastrophic for our province.  As the full economic impact of the pandemic is revealed over the coming months, shouldn’t we be doing everything in our power to minimize the risk of additional economic interruptions and at the same time,  protecting our most vulnerable and our brave frontline workers? 

 It is my opinion that we should consider it an obligation to ourselves and to future generations.

There is a   growing fatigue and it’s palpable. I’m sure implementing additional safety precautions at this point would be unpopular amongst some and met with resistance, as has been the case in other jurisdictions.  

We all want to get back to our normal lives, but complacency at this point is the enemy and we can’t just wish it away.  The pandemic will run its course and and by all indications we will have to deal with this reality for sometime yet.  It would be a tragedy if we have to look back in hindsight with regret, that we should have done more.

Let’s review the actions that our government has taken thus far to combat the spread of this disease.  We have shutdown large portions of our economy.  We have closed the gates at our borders.  We have hit the pause button on our nation’s education.  We have delayed critical medical procedures. We have isolated our seniors and our most vulnerable.  We have forced families to mourn the loss of loved ones alone.  We have borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars, that future generations will struggle to deal with.

The parliamentary budget officer estimates that the deficit for this year will be $ 256 billion.  That estimate was made before the extension of Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB.)

  Now imagine if, in the fall, we have to reintroduce these measures because we were not willing to take the simple action of covering our mouths when we are in indoor public spaces?  

It would be a tragedy if we have to look back in hindsight with regret, that we should have done more.

Jason Mercer,
St. John's

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