Regional Council repeals mask by-law despite concerns from some residents, teachers and medical experts

By: Kw Now Local News
| Published 03/17/2022

Photo Courtesy of: Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)

Regional Council repeals mask by-law ... But let's all be Careful Shall we???

'REMEMBER ... Don't get careless, because another variant is inevitable.'

Waterloo Region – At a Special Council Meeting this evening, Regional Council repealed the mask by-law requiring face coverings in enclosed public spaces, effective March 21, 2022. The by-law has been in place since July 2020.

Face coverings are still required on public transportation vehicles, bus shelter or platform at a transit platform across the region until the Province removes this requirement under the Reopening Ontario Act, anticipated to take place on April 27, 2022.

As of March 21, 2022, face coverings will no longer be required in the following public indoor spaces:

  • Stores and shopping malls
  • Indoor areas of restaurants and bars
  • Professional services such as counselling, personal care, funeral homes, repair and rental services
  • Lobby areas of commercial buildings
  • Enclosed common areas of multi-residential buildings
  • Hotels and motels
  • Laundromats
  • Indoor areas of fitness centres, gyms and recreational sports facilities
  • Indoor concert venues, theatres and cinemas
  • Arcades and other indoor amusement facilities
  • Museums, galleries, historic sites, etc
  • Places of worship
  • Municipal buildings
  • Inside taxis, limousines and other ride sharing vehicles

Schools, hospitals and other provincial and federal facilities were not included in the by-law.

"QUOTES" Worth Noting

Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)

President Karen Brown. “Lifting the mask mandate too soon may result in further disruption to in-person learning and negative impacts on the health and safety of ETFO members, students, and their families. Ontarians deserve stability and safety, not more chaos.”

As leaders in children’s health, we know that masking is an important layer of protection to prevent COVID-19 and has prevented widespread transmission in school settings. While there have been recent calls to remove this public health measure, now is not the time.

President and Chief Executive Officer of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children Ronald Cohn has said the province should revisit the use of masks in schools about two weeks after students return from March Break. Adds Brown, “Premier Ford and Minister Lecce have consistently said they will follow the advice of the medical community. It’s clear they only mean they follow those who are aligned with their political agenda and who will help them get re-elected.”

Throughout the pandemic, the provincial government repeatedly failed to make necessary investments to keep schools open to in-person learning, and to ensure the health and safety of students and ETFO members. They simply cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

High school teacher Martha Crealock with the Waterloo Region District School Board

"It really concerns me that people are having March Breaks where they're interacting with many people, and maybe vacationing or breathing shared air on a plane."

I'm already anxious about a spike in COVID-19 cases after students head back to class on Monday. At that point, students in Ontario public schools will no longer be required to wear masks.

"When they come back on Monday, if people are unmasked in the classroom, I think that we will see infection rates go up."

Dr. Andrea Chittler Guelph Physician

Dr. Andrea Chittle, a family physician based in Guelph, Ont., has launched a petition asking the province to extend mask mandates in schools.

Dr. Chittle shares Martha Crealock's concern. The Guelph-based family doctor has launched a petition asking the province to keep mask mandates in school a little while longer — and it quickly racked up more than 10,000 signatures.

"The vaccination rate among children between five and 11 is still relatively low, with just over 55 per cent of kids in that age group having had at least one dose. Meanwhile, children under five aren't yet eligible for vaccination, and COVID-19 is still circulating in the community."

"People enrolled their elementary and secondary school students in in-person schooling this year with an understanding that they would benefit from layers of protection, as the Ministry of Education and the Ford government promised."

"To remove those protections when we still have a lot of COVID circulating seems like it's leaving those families and individuals in the lurch."

Karen Redman, Regional Chair

“We are in a very different stage of the pandemic now than when the bylaw came into effect in July 2020, thanks to the collective efforts of our community and high vaccination rates. While masks are no longer required, they remain an effective way to protect ourselves, each other, and our community from serious outcomes of COVID-19. I ask that we all continue to be kind and respectful to our friends, neighbours, and businesses who choose to continue to wear a mask.”

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Waterloo

“When the mask mandate lifts, it is important to remember that our friends and neighbours may have different comfort levels. I would ask residents to please be respectful and show kindness to anyone who chooses to continue to wear a mask. COVID-19 continues to be with us and masks are an added layer of protection when the risk is higher, such as during the winter respiratory season and if/when we have another wave.” -