BARRIE, ONT. -- Today is the first official day the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit asks all residents in the region to mask up; whether you're going to the bank, the grocery store, nail salon or hardware store, the advice right now is to put on a mask.

Dr. Charles Gardner, The region's top doctor, is calling on the pubic to wear face coverings indoors in public places.

Dr. Gardner said with infection rates at the lowest they've been since the virus first appeared, studies show this is the best time for masks to be worn.

"A substantial amount of transmission can be prevented if you have a high degree of usage," Dr. Gardner said if 80 per cent of the public wears a mask, it would further prevent a second wave of COVID.

Click for the SMDHU's FAQ sheet on wearing a face-covering in indoor public spaces

Some businesses are providing disposable masks for customers.

"To me, it's like I'm protecting myself, but I am also protecting other people because we don't know if it's just airborne or it's by something you inhale, and I mean it doesn't hurt to be safe," said Barrie resident Karen Chatzis.

Health officials said the recommendation to wear a face-covering would be difficult to enforce and call on the public to maintain physical distancing and wear a mask indoors to keep spread in the community low.

To date, the health unit is reporting that 91 per cent of the region's 613 cases have recovered, with no new COVID-19-related deaths in nearly two months, keeping the death toll at 36.

Dr. Gardner said these measures could be in place for another year, possibly longer.