Waterloo regional council votes unanimously to extend mask bylaw into the spring
The Waterloo Regional Council has unanimously voted in favour of extending the mask bylaw into the spring in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The bylaw was originally put into effect on July 13 and was slated to remain until Sept. 30, with the option for the council to extend it.
The bylaw will now be in place until May 31, 2021.
“As much as there are people that still find this mandatory mask bylaw controversial and people that objected for a variety of reasons, the compliance in Waterloo Region has been extremely high,” Karen Redman, Regional Chair said.
Alongside her role as the regional chair, Redman is also the chair of the Public Health Board of Waterloo Region.
“All of our regional councilors make up the membership of the Public Health Board. So, we take advice from the Medical Officer of Health very seriously and we take our role protecting public health very seriously.”
“This council’s very good at heeding evidence-based decisions,” Redman added.
Redman said that when the council heard from local commercial enterprises, stores and businesses, many of them found the bylaw to be helpful.
“That kind of certainty was really helpful for them, that they were now able to put signs in their windows that ask people to wear masks on the authority of the bylaw.”
“One of the things that the community was really looking for was certainty, which is why we put in the mandatory mask bylaw back in the summer and specifically in areas where you cannot physically distance.”
Such areas include public transit, retail stores, shopping malls and many other indoor public spaces.
Those who are unable to wear masks have been, and will continue to be, exempt from the bylaw.
This includes children under the age of five, those with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from wearing face coverings, and those engaged in sport or strenuous physical activity.
“We also wanted to really underscore that nobody needs to prove they have an exemption. They don’t need a doctor’s certificate and they shouldn’t be challenged […] We didn’t want it to be a confrontation between store owners and patrons or one person in the community against another,” Redman said.
“We’ve gone on education rather than just enforcement, we haven’t written very many tickets.”
The council is moving with caution now that students are returning to the region.
“The demographic that is now showing that it is the highest rate of community spread are the 19 to 29 [age] bracket,” Redman said.
“I think there’s a huge concern about young people adhering to the guidance of public health, and public health guidance still is social distancing, physical distancing, good hand [washing] hygiene, stay home if you’re sick and get tested if you have symptoms.”
“Now is not the time to take the community spread of COVID-19 for granted,” Redman added.