Why the Region of Waterloo isn't making masks mandatory
WATERLOO -- People living in Waterloo region shouldn’t expect to see a mandatory mask mandate like the one issued by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
On Friday, the directive for people to wear a face covering when going to or working at a business in that area began.
"The section 22 does allow for more enforcement, but that's not our plan here," said Dr. Nicola Mercer, WDG Public Health's Acting Medical Officer of Health. "We're going to be following an educational approach. For example: no shirt, no shoes, no service."
The directive tells business owners to stop someone from entering their establishment if they are not wearing a mask or risk facing a fine of up to $5,000.
"The law does allow for it, but that is not the intent of the path we are going to take," said Mercer.
Churches, day camps, daycares, schools, and libraries are some of the places exempt from the order.
During a media briefing Friday morning, Acting Medical Officer of Health for Waterloo region, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, said she didn’t feel this was appropriate here.
“I want people to wear masks, but I feel it’s not the right approach for us to put the onus on the business owner and operator to enforce that their patrons wear masks, to determine whether someone can be excluded from entering, to deal with people’s complaints why others are not wearing masks, and to do this under the threat of a fine of $5,000 a day,” she said. “I do not believe that’s the right approach at this time.”
Wang adds that each medical officer has to make their own decision they feel is best for the community they serve.
Both Wang and Region of Waterloo CAO Mike Murray agree that there has been good communication between neighbouring communities when it comes to COVID-19 measures, but admit the differing rules may be confusing.
“I think there is a role for the province to play to avoid this pathwork quilt that's emerging,” said Murray. “If masks are mandatory on transit than that should be the case across the province.”
Ontario's Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams urges provincial residents to wear masks and has thrown his support behind WDG's order.
"That helps the store owners say, in spite of some people saying I don't see the need, well it's required," he said. "You need to do that because they want to maintain the safety of themselves, their patrons, and their staff."
On the subject of transit, Murray adds that the region has been requesting that riders wear face coverings while on board if they’re able to.
“One of the challenges in making masks mandatory on transit is enforcement,” he said. “Every municipality that I’ve seen made it mandatory has said they’re not enforcing it. That’s a big challenge to put enforcement on a bus driver.”
Wang says that she’s seen and heard the trend shift in the community to embracing and wearing face coverings.
“We all have a collective responsibility to protect each other,” she said. “I want the majority of us to wear masks when we’re indoors and in close proximity.”
Wang adds that public health’s focus right now is on supporting businesses reopening, putting in the proper safety measures, and protecting patrons and staff.
With reporting by Nicole Lampa