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Sault shoppers mask up at malls, big box stores

Some call it a nuisance, others don’t seem to mind
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Noomi Suopera, Kayleen Pearce and Cadence Anderson donned their masks while shopping at Station Mall on the first day of APH-recommended mask-wearing for staff and shoppers alike in indoor settings, July 17, 2020. Darren Taylor/SooToday

Friday marked the first day of a new type of shopping atmosphere for Sault consumers, the majority of them wearing non-medical masks inside malls and other shopping environments due to Algoma Public Health (APH) efforts to keep Sault and Algoma COVID-19 numbers low.

On July 10, APH stated “as of Friday July 17, 2020, the public will be required to wear a face covering (i.e. non-medical mask) when entering the indoor premises of businesses, organizations and on public transit systems throughout the service area of Algoma Public Health.”   

“It’s frustrating but I don’t mind wearing a mask if it helps,” said Noomi Suopera, speaking to SooToday while shopping with a group of friends at Station Mall.

About half a dozen individuals were seen without masks at Station Mall Friday afternoon.

Most of the mall’s restaurants were open, about 30 customers enjoying a meal and beverage in the food court.

Only two people were spotted without masks at a busy Walmart on Great Northern Road.

“It’s going very, very well. I’m amazed by the people of Sault Ste. Marie. They’re adapting (to the APH mask request)’s awesome,” said a Walmart employee.

Cambrian Mall, in general, was much quieter in terms of the number of overall customers than Station Mall Friday afternoon, but approximately 10 people were lined up in the corridor outside the mall’s TD Canada Trust branch after being asked to sign in (not the usual, indoor lineup one sees at banks).

The outdoor lineup, an employee said, was due to efforts to maintain social distancing inside the branch.

Did anyone feel frustrated with having to wait outside the branch (though they were still inside the air-conditioned mall)? 

“It’s the new normal. If this is what we have to do to be safe, it doesn’t matter to me,” smiled one good-natured customer through her mask.

“I’d rather wait outside, than in the mall (referring to Friday afternoon’s warm, sunny conditions),” said another.

Another shopper, preparing to enter a store in Churchill Plaza, said she understands the situation as she is a Sault Area Hospital employee, more familiar than others with an abundance of health and safety regulations.

“Beginning July 17, 2020, all employees, visitors and customers are required to wear a mask or face covering upon entering and remaining within a business or organization. The mask or face covering must cover the nose, mouth and chin,” APH stated. 

“This policy will be implemented and enforced in ‘good faith’ to primarily educate people on masks and face coverings and promote their use in enclosed public spaces,” APH wrote.

Children under two years of age, persons who cannot wear or remove a mask or face covering without assistance, persons with medical conditions who cannot safely wear a mask or face covering (due to breathing difficulties, cognitive difficulties, hearing or communication difficulties) and employees who are in an area not designated for public access, or who are within or behind a physical barrier (such as plexiglass) are exempted.

More information about the APH masking requirement is available on the health unit’s website