Kitchener-Waterloo

More than 1,000 calls about mask bylaw to Waterloo call centre, report says

Waterloo Region’s Service First Call Centre has fielded more than 1,015 inquiries and enforcement complaints since the region enacted its COVID-19-related face covering bylaw on July 6. Authorities in the region have also carried out 45 site visits related to the bylaw and issued 16 tickets for violations.

Authorities have carried out 45 site visits and issued 16 tickets for violations

The report to Waterloo Region council does not recommend changing or repealing the current face covering bylaw, which expires at the end of May. (Oded Balilty/The Associated Press)

Waterloo Region's Service First Call Centre has fielded more than 1,015 inquiries and enforcement complaints since the region enacted its COVID-19-related face covering bylaw on July 6, 2020.

Authorities in the region have also carried out 45 site visits related to the bylaw and issued 16 tickets for violations.

The information is contained in an update on the bylaw prepared by staff that will be presented to council at Tuesday's committee of the whole meeting.

The complaints received from the public often involved "people in the apartment common areas not wearing masks or an appearance that building management wasn't doing anything about it," said Tom Hudacin, manager of licensing and enforcement services for the Region of Waterloo.

"In businesses, a common complaint was for a business not allowing someone into the business even though the person had an exemption," he said.

More than two thirds of the calls came in between July 7 and Aug. 13, according to the report. 

Since then, there have been just over 300 more. 

Around half of the calls were complaints about enforcement of the bylaw. More than 350 were questions about it, and the rest were categorized as "other," according to the update.

Regional bylaw staff also provided education on bylaw requirements either over the phone or by email 837 times between Sept. 8 and Dec. 6, it said. 

Future of bylaw

The document also reviewed the criteria for ending or amending the face-covering bylaw and concluded: "This update is not recommending any changes to the current bylaws."

The three criteria for ending the bylaw includes:

  1. An improvement in the state of the local, provincial and global situation with respect to COVID-19.

  2. A significant change in evidence or advice from public health officials regarding masks.

  3. The availability of an effective vaccine and/or treatment for COVID-19.

"Throughout the month of September, the seven-day rolling average of local cases ranged from 0.4 to 2.9 per 100,000," the report said. "Since then, the seven-day rolling average has continued to rise to a high of 13.4 per 100,000 on Dec. 19, 2020 … As of December 2020, there continues to be significant transmission of COVID-19 locally, provincially and globally."

Evidence regarding the use of face coverings continues to grow in support of the initiative, the report added.  And vaccines are not expected to be widely available until the second half of the year.

The face covering bylaw is due to expire on May 31, 2021, if council takes no further action.

Staff will provide another update to council no later than May.

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