Last night, July 23, as part of their efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, Niagara Regional Council approved a by-law making it mandatory to wear a face covering or non-medical mask in enclosed public places.
The by-law comes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on July 31 and will remain into effect until Oct. 1 unless extended by Regional Council.
The by-law applies to the following enclosed indoor places:
- Retail stores where goods and services are sold to customers
- Businesses that primarily sell food including restaurants
- Supermarkets, grocery stores, bakeries and convenience stores
- Churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other places of worship, except during a religious rite or ceremony that is incompatible with the face being covered
- Shopping malls or similar structures which contain multiple places of business
- Lobby areas of commercial buildings
- Common areas of hotels and motels and other short-term accommodations, such as lobbies, elevators, meeting rooms or other common use facilities but does not include the common areas of residential apartment buildings or condominiums
- Concert venues, theatres and cinemas
- Fitness centres, gyms, other recreational and sports facilities and clubhouses
- Arcades and other amusement facilities
- Premises utilized as an open house, presentation centres or other facility for real-estate purposes
- Museums, galleries, historic sites and similar attractions
- Businesses providing personal care services
- Banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, stadiums and other event spaces
- Public transit operated by the Niagara Region and local area municipalities
- Municipal buildings
When it comes to children, every child that is five years old or older will be required to wear a mask.
“The decision made tonight by Regional Council demonstrates a commitment to taking every possible step to protect the health of our residents and ensure our economy can operate as safely as possible. As we move into stage three starting tomorrow, it is more important than ever that we take precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. I am confident that the residents of Niagara understand that wearing means they are being good neighbours and considerate of those in the community,” said Jim Bradley, Niagara Regional Chair.
Under the by-law, all businesses operating in Niagara must have a policy regarding the wearing of face coverings that prevent persons from entering without a mask. Additionally, businesses must ensure that staff receive training in the requirements of the policy and provide hand sanitizer at all public entrances.
As some individuals may be unable to wear a mask, the Niagara Region is asking residents to be supportive to others in our community who may be exempt and remind residents that every person’s situation is different. For those who are unable to wear a mask, the by-law does not require those individuals to disclose the reason for the exemption.
“With fewer government mandated restrictions on business to slow the spread of infection, the balance has shifted to each of us as citizens to take responsibility for slowing the spread of COVID-19. More than ever, we all need to keep to metres distance from each other, to wash or sanitize our hands frequently, to wear face coverings when we can’t keep a 2 metre distance, whether indoors or outdoors, and monitor our health for any symptoms of illness so we can be tested if we do get sick,” said Dr. Hirji, Acting Medical Officer of Health.
The by-law also makes exemptions for indoor locations that would already have their own policies, or would be subject to other provincial legislation or guidelines:
- Day cares, schools, post secondary institutions and other facilities used solely for educational purposes
- Hospitals, independent health facilities and offices of regulated health professionals
- Buildings and services owned or operated by the Province of Ontario or the Federal Government of Canada
- An indoor area of a building that is accessible only to employees
- Portions of buildings that are being used for the purpose of providing day camps for children or for the training of amateur or professional athletes
If residents or businesses have any questions or concerns regarding this by-law, more information is available by visiting www.niagararegion.ca/covid19