KITCHENER -- Businesses won't be responsible for enforcing a masking by-law if it comes into effect in Waterloo Region, according to officials.

Regional staff are drafting a by-law that's expected to be presented to Regional Council on July 6 or 7.

If approved, the order would take the form of a municipal by-law enacted by council, rather than a public health order like the one in the Guelph area.

Regional councillors decided earlier this week to change their tune on a masking by-law, putting the onus on residents to follow the order.

"Some of the members of council felt strong that us providing mandatory mask-wearing provided that certainty towards the education of the community," regional chair Karen Redman said.

Dr. Wang said she's already working with regional staff on the by-law's framework. There will likely be an exemption for anyone who can't wear a mask for medical reasons.

Dr. Wang added she favours education over enforcement.

"This is a progressive approach that starts with education and awareness-raising, with the goal to help our citizens comply," she said.


Meanwhile, in the Guelph area, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health enacted an order for mandatory mask use in businesses earlier this month.

Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health for that area, had some advice on making masks mandatory.

"I think that, in an ideal situation, you have a bit more time to make sure your business is aware of the change that's coming," she said. "But, in general, there's a lot of ways of ensuring you have mandatory masking."

In Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, business owners could be fined up to $5,000 for letting in customers not wearing masks. Officials in that region said they've spoken to some businesses and residents, but have yet to lay any charges.

Dr. Mercer said there's already a noticeable difference in the number of people wearing masks.

"That is behaviour we want and the process to get to that behaviour is not the real focus, it's the behaviour change we need for our society," she said.

Region of Waterloo's Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang says at this point, she doesn't plan on issuing a public health order.

She also said businesses shouldn't be responsible for enforcement.

If Waterloo Region's by-law goes ahead, masks could be required in businesses by mid-July.