Waterloo Regional Council will decide next week whether to extend the face mask bylaw from the end of September to May 31, 2021.
In the agenda posted in advance of Tuesday’s meeting, a staff report also recommends expanding the places included in the bylaw, which requires coverings to be worn in public spaces, to include taxi cabs and the common areas of apartment buildings.
The common areas listed in the report include lobbies, hallways, stairwells, elevators and community rooms.
As with the current bylaw, council put an end to this one if it deems fit.
The agenda says council is expecting a large number of delegates to request time to argue both sides of the issue. Those interested will receive five minutes to make their case.
A staff report, which will be presented to council at the meeting, suggests that school and business reopenings, paired with colder weather, could see an increase in the spread of the coronavirus.
“It is even more important to keep COVID-19 numbers low during flu season, as cases of influenza and other respiratory viruses may put additional strain on the healthcare system,” the report reads. “This could reduce our ability to best care for people who become seriously ill if COVID-19 cases are also high.”
It also says that “although preliminary, there is research that has concluded that face coverings are likely beneficial in reducing community transmission of COVID-19, particularly when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
“Overall, there is little evidence regarding potential harms of face coverings.”
In addition to cabs and the common areas of apartment complexes, the current bylaw does not extend to federal or provincial buildings; colleges, universities or schools; hospitals or health facilities; and the employee-only areas of businesses and other buildings. Most of these areas do not come under regional jurisdiction.
The current bylaw also rules out face shields as it states that a face covering “shall mean a medical mask or non-medical mask or other face covering, including a bandana, scarf or other fabric that covers the nose, mouth and chin to create a barrier to limit the transmission of respiratory droplets.”
There are several exceptions to the bylaw, including people with a medical condition or a disability, kids under the age of five, people doing a sport or other strenuous physical activity, and people consuming food or drink as part of a religious activity within a place of worship.
The region says the goal of the bylaws is not to hand out tickets or to arrest people, rather it is attempting to educate people on the importance of wearing a face covering.
As of Sept. 7, no tickets have been issued in accordance with the initial bylaw, a Waterloo Public Health spokesperson told Global News.