Winnipeg businesses choosing to maintain mask policy despite change to provincial restrictions

Although they’ll no longer be required as of Saturday, a number of Winnipeg businesses have decided to continue with a mandatory mask policy amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandmeic in the interest of protecting staff and customers.

Earlier this week, Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said that while masks will no longer be required in indoor spaces, he recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated wear masks and follow public health guidelines closely.

Read more: Manitoba lifts mask mandate for indoor public places starting Saturday

Roussin also said that businesses are allowed to still require masks if they choose, and that’s the route Oh Doughnuts owner Amanda Kinden is taking.

“I was very surprised to hear that the indoor mask mandate was being dropped for generally everything,” Kinden told Global News.

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“(Wearing a mask) is a really easy, minimal thing that we can do to keep ourselves and others a little bit more safe.

“It’s such an easy thing to do, and it’s so early to drop it when we have a fourth wave that we know is coming, and the more deadly Delta variant also … so it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Kinden said she’s heard from staff throughout the pandemic that they’re more comfortable serving customers when masks are worn, so continuing to make masks mandatory in the shop was a no-brainer.

As for people who don’t want to wear masks? They’re probably not Oh Doughnuts customers anyway, she said.

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Read more: No dancing allowed: Groom-to-be laments latest Manitoba restrictions

“What we’ve seen is that the people who don’t want to wear masks, or don’t believe that COVID is real, etc. … they just don’t come to our establishment, because I have been so vocal — they know our stance on it.

“We have had a couple people come in and just sort of ream the staff out — the innocent, young staff who haven’t made any of these decisions — but for the most part, people who come into the shop are happy to comply with wearing a mask and keeping distance.

“People will self-select out, and that’s totally their right, and that’s great.”

“I don’t feel comfortable having people who aren’t concerned about other people’s health and safety in my shop anyway, so it works out well for both of us.”

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Oh Doughnuts isn’t the only Winnipeg business choosing to maintain mask requirements.

Fellow eateries like Bagelsmith Winnipeg, Fionn MacCool’s and Scout Coffee — among many others — have all announced some form of mask mandates are still in place, as have performance venues like the West End Cultural Centre and the Park Theatre, countless salons and hairdressers, and a large number of retail stores.

Read more: New cases of COVID-19 continue to drop in Manitoba

Epidemiologist Cynthia Carr told Global News removing the last layer of protection —  masks — isn’t an ideal situation for Manitoba, as stats from other provinces with similar changes to restrictions are headed in the wrong direction.

“Looking at the data, for example, in a month Alberta has gone from an average of 50 new cases a day to 194 — so that’s almost a four-fold increase in a month. B.C. has gone from 35 new cases a day to 196.

“Within a month, those cases are going back up, and that’s in the nice weather when most of us are outdoors — and the virus doesn’t like the warm weather as much as it likes the cold.”

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While those numbers can’t solely be attributed to the removal of mask mandates, she said, they are concerning, as Manitoba seems to be following in the footsteps of western neighbours when it comes to reopening.

Read more: Canada’s Delta-driven 4th wave of COVID-19 will be ‘different’ amid vaccinations: experts

“There’s absolutely no doubt that vaccination works and protects us, but there’s also no doubt that we have pockets in this population that are not vaccinated.

“Please, for children, strongly consider getting them vaccinated and strongly encourage them and your family to continue to wear masks.”

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Concerns over mask mandate lifting in Manitoba

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