No masks, seated and socially distanced in places of worship
Many Ontario Public Health Unit policies for places of worship have been that masks are only mandatory until socially distanced and seated. Stage 3, July 17th, quietly removed this exemption in many PHUs, now requiring masks at all times.
Under the same phase 3 policy, dining, movie-going and gym patrons are not required to wear masks. Those dining and in movie theaters (with no assurance of same family nor social distancing), are permitted to remove their masks when seated.
The stated reasons for increased use of masks in phase 3 (on the Hastings Prince Edward Public Health unit’s web site as an example) is: “Commercial and public spaces are likely to have a higher volume of foot traffic from various areas, and additional preventative measures are appropriate”. Places of worship, however, remain at exactly the same capacity restrictions: 30%, no increase was permitted.
The public health policy for places of worship by some other health units remains that masks are only required until seated and socially distanced (the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge unit, for instance).
The abundance of safety protocols already in place in places of worship, the lack of evidence that they have caused new cases, and the aforementioned facts, suggest this new policy by some health units is arbitrary, non standardized and a concerning matter of singling out and limiting religious freedoms.
Many regions have never had fewer cases. Hastings Prince Edward, as an example, has had no new cases since May 18th (as of July 21st).
With broadly reported increases in mental health crisis since the lockdown, places of worship play a vital role in the spectrum of public health, ensuring the spiritual, emotional and social well being of those attending. They need to be afforded the same liberties as other institutions, functioning as freely as possible, as we work together in regaining our socioeconomic strength.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Ontario, call upon the Government of Ontario to provide increased direction and subsequent oversight for Ontario Regulations requiring compliance with “recommendations and instructions of public health officials”. This increased direction and oversight will ensure:
- a focus on safety, the primacy of science and common sense, while also guarding to the greatest extent possible, Ontarians' basic democratic rights and freedoms.
- limits on the unjustified targeting of specific groups through any non uniformity in the application of directives.