Council wants mandatory mask bylaw for Waterloo Region businesses
KITCHENER -- The Region of Waterloo has changed its tune on the use of masks, with council now calling on staff to recommend a bylaw mandating face coverings.
Kitchener Mayor Barry Vrbanovic brought forward the motion at the regional council meeting on Wednesday night.
"We should be looking at a mandatory bylaw,” he said. “I think we can explore what enforcement looks like."
"That would recognize that this is a serious issue and not one that should be put off for three more weeks."
Regional chair Karen Redman weighed in on the issue Thursday.
"We're looking at something where the onus would be on people to do it," she said.
Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang held a virtual town hall with local businesses Thursday, asking what they'd like to see if the region makes masks mandatory inside businesses.
"If a bylaw were not to be passed, there may come a time when I feel I would need to issue a Medical Officer of Health order for the wearing of masks in such settings," she said.
Dr. Wang doesn't support an order that leaves businesses responsible for mask enforcement.
"Regardless if a bylaw is passed or an order is issued, I believe it’s important to engage those who would have a role in implementing the measures," she said.
Public health officials also received feedback from shop and store owners about what safety measures are working and what could be improved.
In the past, the region has said mask use is recommended, but hasn't gone so far as to say people must wear them.
Redman said the region has been monitoring what's going on in the area.
"This discussion has been going on and the consideration of, is this the right thing to do and is now the right time to do it, has been an active conversation for weeks," she said.
The drafted bylaw will be discussed at a special council meeting in the second week of July.
Earlier this week, Region of Waterloo CAO Mike Murray said the region may make mask use mandatory on Grand River Transit buses.
Regional health officials continue to recommend wearing a non-medical face covering when two metres of physical distancing isn't possible.
There is currently a mandatory mask order in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, which was issued in early June.