Mandated Mask Wearing: Waterloo Regional Council has Passed Controversial Health Measures Before (And they all got re-elected).

Wearing the mask my daughter got me at the beginning of the pandemic.

When I ran for Regional Council for the first time in 2000, the Region had just passed the no-smoking by-law. Like today, the province refused to pass a law banning smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor locations. A man smoking on his front steps, who had probably been forced out there, asked me if I agreed with it. I did. I do not know who voted for the by-law but no-one lost a seat because of it. The whining and anger over that by-law was huge, as many bar patrons also smoked. The Region used by-law officers to enforce. Eventually the province stepped up. Today, you would never know there had been a controversy

The second instance occurred during my early years as a councillor. Regional Council decided to ban cosmetic pesticides. Interestingly, the medical officer of health would not put out an order for this ban. Council went ahead anyway. There was a lot of whining and anger.By-law officers that also regulate lawn watering regulated spraying. Even today, people still grumble about their dandelions. The province, once again, stepped in after the fact.

This brings us to today. We are in the middle of a pandemic and in the first stages of reopening restaurants, stores and bars. From March to almost the end of May, public health wanted everyone in their homes to stop the spread of this new disease so wouldn’t recommend mask wearing. Now that the numbers are down, but still a bit of spread, wearing a mask is recommended. Like the ban on the spraying of cosmetic pesticides, public health will not recommend a by-law mandating the wearing of masks in places where social distancing is difficult or in restaurants, bars and stores.

Health Canada says,”When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.” It is not known by how much wearing a mask will decrease people’s risk.

When we look at who gets COVID-19, it is important to note that only one case was traced to the large BLM march in Kitchener. I know from my daughter who attended, that almost everyone, including herself, wore a mask. They tried to social distance. Working from home, she quarantined herself for two weeks afterwards. On the other hand, a party in London with no social distancing and masks, has caused COVID spread.

I always wear a mask when I visit a store, and most establishments have their staff masked by provincial decree. Yet there are so many customers not masked. Some are going to be asymptomatic and spreading the virus. Why does everyone have to be masked when I visit the hairdresser (Thanks Control ) and the dentist (Thanks Waterloo Smiles) but not when I visit Basics?

Waterloo Regional Council is the Board of Health. They have passed health measures before both with the recommendation of public health staff and without the recommendation of public health staff. Certainly public health measures have been successfully passed locally before the province moved ahead.

We can’t carry on with everyone shut up in their homes. Everyone needs to wear a mask, hand wash or use sanitizer, not touch their face, and practice social distancing. Follow the recommendations of a safe bubble of ten people.

There will be whining and anger, that is no surprise. There has been whining and anger over the introduction of seat belts, smoking bans, and cosmetic pesticides bans. The world moves on.

Thank you Mayor Berry Vrbanovic for introducing this motion.

4 responses to “Mandated Mask Wearing: Waterloo Regional Council has Passed Controversial Health Measures Before (And they all got re-elected).

  1. A Facebook comment from Kari Williams
    I have masks available at my work. I wore one the first day I was back. I have very strict cleaning protocols between every customer. I clean the counter, barrier, debit machine and even the keyboard of the till before someone else uses it. I also clean my hands. When I wore a mask, soooooo many people came near me, leaned around the barrier and talked very close to me. The next shift, I didn’t wear a mask. People stayed away and stayed behind the barrier for the most part. It was very bizarre. So, to keep people away from me and the other employees, I have been not wearing a mask. If it’s mandated, I will, but I hate wearing them. I avoid shopping for 3 weeks because I feel like I can’t breathe well. I made one myself that I can tolerate for 1 shopping trip to Costco. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  2. A comment from Facebook by Cathie Stuart Savage
    I am one of the people who has trouble with wearing a mask for longer than a few minutes. I still wear one as often as I feel necessary. When getting on or off the bus, when I need to sit closer to other passengers, when I go into a store, when I go through a checkout, whenever I am going to be near other customers, and when walking outdoors, if I will be anywhere near another pedestrian. When the coast is clear, inside or out, I remove the mask and gasp for breath. My worry is, will I and anyone like me not be able to shop for our necessities without fear of fines? I also have already witnessed a man being attacked in a store by another customer for not wearing a mask. Will this type of law not embolden more people to do this? Masks are good and important, but they are not the only way to protect each other and I would rather see us all doing our best to wear them appropriately than to enforce only one way of protection.
    I think part of the issue is who decides. If you need to go to a doctor to get some sort of pass, are you forcing more contacts on people? My personal preference is to somehow empower the businesses to mandate masks as they see fit. Some stores are laid out so that social distancing can be done with directional movement, but others cannot. Those stores or businesses should be empowered to enforce masks in their buildings. I think everyone can wear a mask long enough to go through a checkout at least.

  3. A Comment from Facebook by Christianne Sadeler.

    Ok fair enough and as with the smoking bylaw etc there is an AND here because laws don’t change behaviour alone. We need to acknowledge that not one shoe fits all. Some people with upper respiratory ailments find masks hard to breathe with. Some people have claustrophobia. Others get anxiety. Etc etc So if we just pass a law and not help people to know exactly how to use a mask (eg don’t touch it all the time. In fact…don’t touch it unless you put it on or take it off). Or we explain which materials are more breathable and yet catch droplets. Or how to not give a stink eye to people going for a walk without a mask etc etc. Unless we do that too ie put kindness into the smart we will not only fail but punish those who likely can deal with it least. So we don’t just need bold leadership we need smart leadership. The two are not the same. Just saying…prevention is complicated. Plus I must wonder how come all MoHs across the country first said: don’t bother with a mask. And now they changed their tone? Science or political pressure? All of which means that we need to think out loud and debate sensibly and then make a choice. I worry that people put too much faith in an object when we need multiple actions. Wash hands. Keep your distance. Don’t touch your face. We all know the drill. So…yes Jane Grey Mitchell….good to bring this up. But there is also the AND that we need to attend to. But then I guess you know me well enough to know I would say something like that.

  4. I agree most heartily. No retail employee (or other customer-facing staff) should have to be exposed to customers who aren’t wearing masks. They are already at higher risk by dealing with the public all day. We should all take whatever protections we can to help them stay safe. I wish the province and country would have a clearer message about this and impose guidelines.

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