As of Monday, July 13, masks or face coverings will be mandatory in enclosed public spaces in Waterloo Region, as well as on public transit.
The bylaw, which has generated plenty of debate and saw close to 30 delegations appear before council, was passed during a marathon meeting on Monday evening.
Regional Chair Karen Redman said they will be taking an education-first approach to the new bylaw, requesting residents comply in the spirit of protecting each other.
During the special council meeting, Redman pointed out one of the overwhelming themes was really the need to be kind to one another, "Wearing a mask is something you're doing for the rest of the community, because you're protecting them from your germs, and yes, you may get some protection back, but it's more important you're doing this for other people."
"And in that spirit of looking after the greater good, you also have to allow for people that may have physical disabilities ... people that may have a vast variety. We heard from people with asthma, to PTSD, to people who have violence in their background and feel claustrophobic when they have masks on. So no one should have to justify why they don't have a mask on ... we hope the community will look at this as part of their civic participation in wearing a mask and not become vigilantes," Redman explained during a media briefing on Tuesday.
Children under the age of five, those who are unable to wear a face covering as a result of a medical condition or a disability and those engaged in sport or strenuous physical activity will all be exempt from the bylaw.
Redman also said they're not expecting businesses to "grill" people who can't wear a mask, "This bylaw is bringing certainty and clarity for ... the business sector, who again like the community were necessarily not all speaking in one voice, but we heard repeatedly was that they wanted the clarity,"
She said now businesses have that clarity and can post a sign stating it's now a regional requirement.
Face coverings are required in the following locations, with some exceptions:
- Buses, bus shelters, ION trains and ION platforms
- Stores and shopping malls
- Indoor areas of restaurants and bars, with the exception of patrons consuming food/drink
- Professional services such as counselling, personal care, funeral homes, repair and rental services
- Lobby areas of commercial buildings
- Hotels and motels, with the exception of rented rooms
- Indoor areas of fitness centres, gyms and recreational and sports facilities
- Indoor concert venues, theatres and cinemas
- Arcades and other indoor amusement facilities
- Museums, galleries, historic sites, etc.
- Places of worship
- Municipal buildings
More information about the bylaw can be found on the region's website.