Police, bylaw and public health team up to educate St. Thomas businesses about COVID-19 rules
ST. THOMAS, ONT. -- It's a COVID-19 blitz to make sure businesses in St. Thomas are in compliance with the Reopening Ontario Act.
The St. Thomas Police Service (STPS) along with Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) and city bylaw enforcement were doing inspections at downtown businesses Tuesday to make sure they have proper signage and distancing measures, as well as understanding how to deal with mask usage.
"There has been changes that have happened over the past nine months," explains Nathan Hofstetter, an enforcement officer with SWPH.
"Because of an increase of outbreaks in the region, and because we are back to 'Orange Restricted' we just want businesses to know we are here to support them."
They are going door-to-door along Talbot Street providing signs, and advice.
"Its super helpful to have someone in come in and have someone to talk to face-to-face rather than calling a hotline," says Andrew Young, manager of Take 5 Oil Change. "They are putting in the effort to make sure everyone has what they need."
The subject of masking is the main topic of conversation at most stops.
Business owners want to know exactly what to do when someone enters without a proper face covering.
"First thing is to see if they have a medical exemption," says Hofstetter. "If they do, you don't have to ask any more questions. If they indicate they are refusing to wear a mask because they don't believe in it, we ask them contact the non-emergency number of STPS, and they will dispatch city bylaw at that time."
Bylaw enforcement tells CTV News their role is to respond to complaints from the public about businesses, however most shops have been compliant during the pandemic.
They have two roles during this blitz.
"We want to make sure businesses are abiding by the restrictions, and make sure people are masking up when entering businesses," says Dan Smukavich, a St. Thomas bylaw enforcement officer.
What many people don't know is that businesses have the option to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask.
The blitz consists of two teams, each starting at opposite ends of Talbot Street. They hope to hit every business along the main street by the end of the week.
"The intent is just to get the info out and educate the community," says Hofstetter. "We don't intend to do enforcement action, just to talk to the shops and get on the same page as to what the expectations are."