Council to vote Monday on bylaw that would make masks mandatory in indoor settings, on transit
KITCHENER -- Regional council is expected to vote on a bylaw that would make it mandatory for people to wear masks or face coverings in indoor settings and on transit.
Regional Chair Karen Redman provided a few details about the framework of the bylaw during a media briefing on Friday morning.
If the bylaw goes through, children under five won't have to wear masks, nor will people with medical reasons.
Someone who cites a medical exemption won't have to provide any proof of it, Redman said.
"If bylaws are passed it will provide greater certainty for individuals and businesses as we continue into our recovery phases," she explained.
If passed, the bylaw will also come with a $40,000 educational campaign to help clear up misconceptions and advertise where masks will be mandatory.
The region looked at other municipalities in coming up with its framework for the mandatory mask bylaw.
While council will vote Monday, Redman said it will be up to regional councillors to decide how soon it will be enforced.
"There's a real balance between doing things quickly and doing them well and it's a very big part of education," she said, noting that there is a range of views around mandatory mask wearing.
"Nobody is on the fence in the community about this. They either are, soundly in favour of this and they want to protect themselves and others, and other people that feel that the science doesn't warrant it."
What do people think about mandatory masks?
CTV News was able to read a number of letters sent to regional council both in favour and against the proposed bylaw.
Those in favour of scrapping the bylaw claimed the risk of catching COVID-19 is low and is only a real danger for seniors living in care homes.
Others expressed concern about public confusion and how guidelines instead of bylaws will offer some flexibility.
The Ontario Civil Liberties Association was one of several letter writers who say they bylaw is an attack on civil rights.
Other Waterloo Region residents tell CTV News on Friday they believe people should have masks on everywhere they go.
"If everyone is obligated to do it, there is no question, there is no worries, and you are always taking it with you," one resident said.
Of the half dozen people surveyed by CTV News, all say they would wear a mask if it became law.
"Unfortunately it is a restriction, but in this case it is for a very good purpose," another resident said.
Public Health responds
While other medical officers have issued orders mandating masks, Region of Waterloo's Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang says she'll see what Monday's outcome is before she makes any decisions.
There are currently 1,312 positive cases in Waterloo Region, including 1,114 resolved ones and 116 deaths.
That leaves 82 active cases in the region. During Friday's media briefing, Dr. Wang noted that our rates are relatively low but that cases can rise quickly if we let our guard down.
"We are always in a precarious situation because COVID continues to circulate in our community," she said.