Council unanimously approves extending Waterloo Region's face covering bylaw
KITCHENER -- Waterloo regional councillors have voted unanimously in favour of extending a face covering bylaw into next spring.
The bylaw will remain in place until May 31, 2021.
Face coverings were made mandatory in indoor public spaces and on transit starting on July 13. Council originally agreed to keep the bylaw in place until Sept. 30, with an option to extend.
Masks will also be mandatory in common areas of multi-residential units, like lobbies and elevators, along with inside taxis and rideshares. The bylaw applies to drivers and customers.
Council heard from multiple delegates, some saying they felt discriminated against because they aren't able to wear a face covering.
"At the very least, if this bylaw is extended, there must be more information given to businesses and civilians about the exemptions." Children under five years old, those with medical conditions, and people in particular situation-specific circumstances are not required to wear a mask, and no proof is needed for those with a medical condition.
Councillors agreed there needs to be more messaging around exemptions.
North Dumfries Mayor Susan Foxton voted in favour of the extension, but proposed Jan. 15 as an alternative date. However, the bylaw will remain in place until the spring.
In January, staff will present a report on the progress of the bylaw.
"It's absolutely essential that businesses be able to operate for the economic recovery of individuals, families and businesses," Regional Chair Karen Redman said. "This is part of that strategy. It's not the only reason for the mask wearing, but it is a reason why."
REGION'S TOP DOCTOR SUPPORTS EXTENSION
Region of Waterloo's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said Tuesday that she was in favour of the recommendation to extend the bylaw.
"I continue to be supportive of the regional bylaws, requiring face coverings in enclosed public places and on transit," she said in a media briefing on Tuesday.
"The bylaws further support my strong recommendation that people wear masks when physical distancing can be a challenge, especially in such settings."
The extension will officially come into effect on Sept. 28.
Region of Waterloo Public Health officials reported three new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, for a total of 1,531 cases to date. Of those cases, 68 are considered active.