Kitchener-Waterloo

Health official 'very impressed' with mask bylaw compliance in Waterloo region

Waterloo region's acting medical officer of health says she's impressed and grateful people appear to be complying with the mask bylaw, which went into effect last week.

Mandatory face coverings 'becoming very common,' Chair Karen Redman says

Waterloo region officials say it appears most people are complying with the new mask bylaw. The region is requiring people to wear masks in many public, indoor places and on transit to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The region's top doctor says she's been "very impressed and very grateful" people appear to be following the new mask bylaw.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang says from what she's seen, most people are complying and covering their faces while in public, indoor spaces and while on transit.

"I have seen myself, anecdotal evidence, of very high degrees of compliance and I've also received emails ... where businesses have thanked the region for making the onus to comply with the bylaw on all of us, as opposed to only businesses," Wang said Tuesday during a weekly COVID-19 media briefing. "It remains a collective responsibility for all of us to continue with these practices."

The bylaw asks anyone who can wear a mask to do so. The exceptions include young children and people with health conditions that make it hard for them to wear a mask. There is no requirement for people to prove they have a health condition. 

The bylaw will end on Sept. 30 unless extended by regional council.

65 complaints

Bethany Rowland, a communications officer for the region, said bylaw officials are also reporting "really good compliance."

Bylaw offices in the region have received 438 questions and complaints since July 6, she said. Of those, 65 were complaints about people not following the bylaw.

Grand River Transit is also reporting many people are wearing masks, and education and free mask distribution appears to be helping, Rowland said.

No one has been charged under the new bylaw and she said bylaw officers haven't been called to any confrontations.

"There haven't been any negative encounters through our bylaw or security officers," she said.

Masks becoming 'very common'

Regional Chair Karen Redman says she still receives emails from people who "fundamentally don't agree" with the mask bylaw.

"But I think people are also hearing on the news that it's becoming a very common, widespread practise," she said. "So whether you're leaning into this willingly and putting your mask on because you recognize that there is a benefit, or you're sort of doing it reluctantly because it's mandatory, people are now looking to see that it is a very widespread practice."

New cases

The region saw six new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. The number of deaths remain at 119 and there is one outbreak at a long-term care home.

The region entered Stage 3 of the province's reopening plan on Friday, which means more businesses can open, including indoor sit-down restaurants, as well as playgrounds, fitness centres and movie theatres. As well, larger groups are allowed to gather: 50 inside and 100 inside, but they must maintain a physical distance of two metres.

Ontario's total new cases for July 21 is the highest in about a month. (CBC)

COVID-19 not eliminated yet

Wang, the region's acting medical officer of health until the province approves her appointment to the office, says public health will be watching the case numbers and it's possible if they spike upwards and hospitals start to feel strain with too many patients with COVID-19, she may then recommend closing some businesses and facilities down.

"We have not eliminated COVID-19," Wang said. "We must continue to learn to live with COVID-19. This will be our new normal for quite some time."

She added, "What comes next depends on the actions of each and every one of us."

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