WATERLOO -- Starting July 17, face coverings are required to be worn at businesses in Huron and Perth counties.

The instructions issued by Dr. Miriam Klassen, the area’s Medical Officer of Health, state that business ownersmust implement the policy for everyone entering commercial establishments.

“These additional instructions for commercial establishments that are open to the public build upon the diligent work many are already doing to ensure physical distancing and hand sanitizers,” said Dr. Klassen in a news release. “Face coverings are extra protection to prevent COVID-19 spread, they also send a message that the wearer wants to protect others.”

Public health describes a face covering as a medical or non-medical mask, a bandana, scarf, or other item that covers the mouth and nose.

Certain exemptions to the requirement are in place, like for those who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask.

“As we work towards a successful Stage 3 re-opening, we also increase the risk of spreading the virus,” said Klassen. “Normalizing the use of masks helps reduce this risk and helps keep businesses and services up and running.

“We ask everyone to be kind and understanding when others can’t wear masks, and to physically distance from them.”

Public health says business operators should use signs and verbal reminders to enforce the policy, but that there is no requirement to turn away customers.

According to public health’s website as of Thursday, Huron and Perth counties have 58 confirmed cases of COVID-19, five deaths, 52 resolved, and have tested 9,386 people.

Huron Perth Public Health is the latest region to enact a mandatory mask policy. Earlier this week, Waterloo Region voted in favour of bylaws that would make them mandatory on transit and in businesses.

The City of Toronto has also mandated masks, and Brantford council will be considering a move to do the same.

Wellington County’s public health unit made them mandatory by emergency order, as well.