By RYAN KING
– with files from René J. Roy
PORT AUX BASQUES – The mask mandate ended in Newfoundland at 12:01 am on Tuesday, Aug. 10. While the province has halted the requirement across the province individual businesses and some public facilities like hospitals, will continue to require visitors to mask up based on preference and the nature of their services.
Sasha Persaud, Communications Co-ordinator for Coleman’s groceries says that masks will no longer be required by store patrons, but other practices will remain in place.
“So, the mask policy that we currently have is across all our stores, including the Port aux Basques store. Based on the recent guidelines provided by the Department of Health and Community Services, we will be offering our team members and guests an option to wear the mask. It’s just the basic change that most stores have accommodated as well, based on the recent change of the guidelines,” said Persaud.
Coleman’s Vice President of Marketing, Greg Gill, appeared on CBC Radio One’s Newfoundland Morning show.
“It’s been all about change, and I think together as a community we’ve tried our best to adapt to the changes as they’ve developed, and there have been many,” said Gill.
With the mandate ended, Gill said that there has been a sense of relief from both customers and staff.
“We understand there’s going to be a difference of opinion in the community on, you know, when these measures take place and how businesses respond to them,” stated Gill. “The safety and comfort of our team members and guests, you know, that’s paramount. So, our floor decals and directional signage that will help us maintain physical distancing that will stay in place.”
Foodland will adopt a similar policy when it comes to masks and other pandemic measures. The Grand Bay Mall will also no longer require masks to enter the building to shop at businesses in the mall according supervisor, Richard Anderson.
“Well, some stores you’ve still got to wear it and some stores you don’t. It’s give and take,” said Anderson, who also noted that many people that entered the mall are still wearing masks. “Ninety-five per cent of them got them on.”
One business in the mall where masks will not be required is Eclipse.
“If you want to wear a mask, people can wear a mask, but where they dropped the mandate, we’re going to go with that, socially one’s choice,” said Anna-Rose Kettle, assistant manager.
This policy will also apply to staff.
“It’s up to us. They do kind of recommend that they wanted us to be fully vaccinated if we’re not wearing a mask, but they said that is also up to us. They can’t really make us. So yeah, I’m not wearing a mask,” said Kettle.
Like most other businesses, sanitizing and social distancing practices will remain in place.
“Socially distancing is still a thing, and we’re still regularly cleaning our dressing rooms after one person goes in, the doorknobs and stuff,” confirmed Kettle.
Riffs will also not be requiring masks for employees or customers according to manager Tina Allen.
“We are not required to wear masks. It’s entirely our own choice. If we don’t feel comfortable, we can wear masks and it’s up to the customers as well,” said Allen. “Everything will still be followed for distancing, and we still have our hand sanitizers.”
By contrast, Rossy will be requiring employees to keep wearing their masks.
“We had an email come down from our head office in Montreal, and they want us to continue it for another little while,” said manager Darlene Osmond.
The public will be able to shop without a mask, but by Friday, Aug. 13 posted signage did make a mask mandatory for shoppers entering the store.
“Well, we cannot tell them they can’t. We’d prefer if they did, but if they don’t it won’t be an issue because they don’t have to, but we will be wearing ours. Because where we’re the gateway to Newfoundland, I mean we see everybody. We’re all twice vaccinated, but we’ve still got to wear them,” said Osmond.
One place where the public will not be able to enter without a mask is The Hair Hut, owned by Henry Lawrence.
“Our mask policy is that we are still keeping our masks on,” confirmed Lawrence. “It’s all the staff plus people that enter the building because we do have a lot of clients that are not vaccinated, and we’ve got our children under 12 years old that are not vaccinated. And we got a lot of people with health issues. We’re going to keep ours on because we don’t know where this leads to.”
An additional factor for Lawrence is the up-close contact required for cutting hair.
“We can’t keep a distance here. If we could keep a distance here, then maybe yes, you could drop it down. But we’re up in your face.”
The Hair Designer’s Unisex Beauty Salon will allow customers to come in without first donning a mask.
“Right now it’s kind of up to the person,” said hair designer Eydie Seymour. “If they want us to wear a mask, we’ll all go ahead and follow suit, but it’s up to your own personal preference.”
Shoppers Drug Mart will be keeping their masks on to serve the public according to pharmacist Shawn Vautier.
“I know we will still be masked, the employees will still be,” said Vautier.
The public will be allowed to use their own discretion.
“If the government has the rules changed as of tonight then, as far as I know, I haven’t seen anything different, they wouldn’t have to wear a mask,” said Vautier.
The Bargain Center will be allowing both employees and the public to make the choice whether or not to wear a mask.
“If the customer prefers to keep the mask on you can, but you don’t have to. It’s completely up to the customer what they feel,” said supervisor Melanie Ayres. “We’re not required to, but we can if we feel that we need to.”
Social distancing and sanitizing will still be in place.
The Butterfly Book Boutique will also be leaving the choice for a mask up to the individual, with hand sanitizing and social distancing still in place.
“I think we’re going to be pretty fluid. If you want to wear a mask you’re welcome to, but you’re not going to be enforced to,” said employee Victoria Parsons.
The Great Canadian Dollar Store will still practice social distancing, have sanitizing solution on hand, but the use of masks for employees and the public will be left to individual discretion.
“We will still practice social distancing, and keep up our cleaning regime that we’ve been doing. But other than that, if customers are comfortable coming in without a mask, well then that’s fine. I will leave it to my staff to decide what they are comfortable with because some of them have indicated they would like to still wear it, and others will be glad to see it go,” said manager Dayna Keough.
Home Hardware will also be following the provincial guidelines, not mandating the mask for employees or the public.
“We are just following, right now, the provincial guidelines. So we’re not mandating the mask, so unless someone wishes to do it at their own personal level, if you come into the store, you’re not obligated to wear a mask if you don’t need to,” said Tena Carter, accounting clerk.
Social distancing will still be in place in the store.
While businesses are setting their own policy, the provincial government has announced requirements for public institutions such as hospitals and schools. Western Health has confirmed it will still require masks for visitors to its long-term care facilities.
Schools on the Southwest coast are preparing to reopen in a couple of weeks, and as per Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, masks will be encouraged in classrooms, but not necessary. Buses will be returning to full capacity again, and sports or extra curricular activities will resume as well.
Unless the epidemiology changes, students and staff will remain in what is currently labelled a low-risk situation. Should there be a surge in cases, then schools would be re-classified as high risk, and the policy would at that time change.
Newfoundland currently enjoys the lowest caseload of COVID-19 of all of the provinces, although two of the territories do have lower numbers.
“So many of our educators and support staff are excited to welcome students back into our buildings with near-normal conditions. There have been many challenges since 2020, but school staff have risen to each one of them, helping our province keep the prevalence of this virus low. District staff will continue to follow the sage advice of the Public Health team and work collaboratively with our province’s public education system partners in our student’s best interests,” stated Tony Stack, CEO / Director of Education, Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.