Some people applauded the region for its decision to take further steps to prevent the possibility of a new wave of viruses, while others questioned the need for declining local cases.
The regional councilors listened patiently before debating the statutes and making a decision.
In the end, the region passed the two by-laws unanimously, but not before significant changes were made.
Here is what you need to know about the mandatory face cover bylaws in the Waterloo region, which will take effect on July 13.
Face covers can help prevent the spread of COVID-19
Public health officials in the Waterloo region say that a face covering can prevent respiratory droplets from reaching other people or landing on surfaces.
COVID-19 is mainly spread from person to person through these droplets, when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
Officials say masks are especially important in situations where physical removal is difficult or inconsistent.
Learn more: Here’s what you need to know about wearing a mask in public
Council adopted two by-laws concerning masks
Two different regulations were adopted Monday evening.
The first deals with public transit, by adding masks to the Grand River Transit Use Code.
CAO Mike Murray explained at a press briefing on Tuesday that the Code of Use has been applied for years and will therefore be easy to adjust.
The usage code defines the rules in cases where people can be fined or requested to leave because of their behavior or non-compliance with the rules.
In cases where people deliberately flout the masks by-laws in transit, Murray said they could receive a ticket of up to $ 240.
The other regulation relates to interior spaces such as stores and shopping centers, interior areas of restaurants, halls of commercial buildings and concert and theater halls.
In these cases, Murray said that the region had asked the province to pay a fixed fine in order to issue $ 240 bills to people when needed.
In the meantime, those charged will be given a subpoena to appear before the province when the courts reopen, which is expected to take place in September.
These fines, decided by a justice of the peace, can reach up to $ 1,000.
There are exceptions around who should wear them
The regulation aims to ensure that as many people as possible wear masks in situations where they cannot be physically removed, but officials understand that there are a number of reasons why some people cannot wear them.
The exemptions include:
- Children under five;
Those who have a medical condition or a disability that would prevent them from wearing masks;
A person practicing a sport or another intense physical activity (including those who do physical activity in gymnasiums, once they reopen in phase three);
Someone is helping or welcoming someone who is hard of hearing or hard of hearing; and
People who consume food or drink as part of a religious activity in a place of worship.
Regional officials say that a person who is unable to wear a mask does not have to provide proof that this is the case.
“Some disabilities are invisible, so we ask people to respect that,” says an information page on the region’s website, in part.
Education, not enforcement, will be the priority in the region
While fines are possible, officials in the Waterloo region say their first priority is to educate people to ensure compliance.
Since people don’t have to prove they can’t wear a mask, Murray admitted on Tuesday that there probably wouldn’t be many fines, but that there would be circumstances where people would repeatedly go against the settlement as they could be.
Rather, regulatory officers will take the time to educate people on why people are asked to cover their faces.
At Monday’s board meeting, Kitchener mayor Berry Vrbanovic introduced a motion that meant business owners would not have to enforce the by-law, as happened in Guelph and the county from Wellington.
The motion was adopted.
Instead, business owners are encouraged to print and post prominent signage so that customers can see it before entering.
It is up to you to provide your own face cover, mainly
The Waterloo region says that residents are responsible for providing their own face masks or covers, including homemade or reusable ones.
Some companies may provide masks, but they are not required to do so.
One company that will provide masks to people who need them, however, is Grand River Transit.
Regional President Karen Redman said at a Tuesday press conference that GRT had acquired 40,000 masks, about half of which are reusable, to provide boarding customers who do not have them.
There are also a number of guides online that show how to make your own mask, including some that show how to make a covering face with an old (clean) sock or with a t-shirt.