Face Covering By-law

Region of Waterloo by-laws require the wearing of masks on transit and in enclosed public places such as shopping malls and retail shops, restaurants, museums, grocery stores and more. The by-laws exempt children under the age of five and those who are unable to wear a face covering (due to a medical condition, disability, etc.). It's important to show kindness to those who are unable to wear a face covering. Council will review the mask bylaw and code of use bylaws once the Province revokes its face covering wearing requirements for businesses and organizations.

These by-laws are another tool to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Wearing a face covering is not a replacement for other health measures. The Region continues to take an education-first approach, asking people to comply with the by-law and educating them on the importance of protecting each other.

For more detail on exceptions, please consult the actual by-laws.

  • A Code of Use by-law that requires face covering on transit. By-law 21-026 (Consolidation of By-law 13-050:  The Office Consolidation Version for Reference Only of the Region’s Code of Use By-law No. 13-050 as amended by By-law Nos. 18-056, 20-034, 20-051, 21-026). If there are any discrepancies between this consolidation and Bylaws 13-050, 18-056, 20-034 and 20-051, the By-laws shall prevail.)
  • A by-law that requires face covering in enclosed public places. By-law 21-025 (Consolidation of By-law 20-035: The  Office Consolidation Version for Reference Only of the Region’s Face Covering By-law No. 20-035 as amended by By-law No. 20-052 and 21-025. If there are any discrepancies between this consolidation and Bylaws 20-035 and 20-052, the By-laws shall prevail.)

Visit our Face Covering By-law for Business page

Print a by-law sign for your business or building

Print a by-law sign for a common area in your multi-residential building

Read more about masks on our Public Health face coverings page.

Read more about face covering requirements for Grand River Transit.

Face covering by-law feedback form

 By-law details

 Regional Council has enacted two by-laws:
  • A Code of Use by-law that requires face covering on transit. (By-law 21-026)
  • A by-law that requires face covering in enclosed public places. (By-law 21-025)
Businesses and establishments affected

Face coverings are required in the following locations, with some exceptions:

  • Buses, bus shelters, ION trains and ION platforms
  • Stores and shopping malls
  • Indoor areas of restaurants and bars, with the exception of patrons consuming food/drink
  • 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, with the exception of rented rooms
  • Laundromats
  • Indoor areas of fitness centres, gyms and recreational and 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 

For more detail on exceptions, please consult the actual by-laws.

By-law exemptions (businesses and individuals)

The by-laws do not cover:

  • Federal or provincial buildings
  • Colleges, universities or schools
  • Hospitals or health facilities
  • Offices of regulated health professionals
  • Employee-only areas of businesses and other buildings
  • Outdoor areas in streets, parks, sports facilities and patios
  • Child care facilities and day camps
  • Care facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities

The by-laws exempt:

  • Children under the age of five; however, the Province of Ontario requires that children aged two years and older wear a face mask/covering
  • Those who are unable to wear a face covering as a result of a medical condition or a disability. Some disabilities are invisible so we ask people to respect that. The by-law does not require people to provide proof to support an exemption.
  • A person engaged in a sport or other strenuous physical activity.
  • A person who is assisting or accommodating someone who has a hearing loss or a hearing disability.
  • A person who is consuming food/drink as part of a religious activity within a place of worship.

Responsibility of business owners/operators

  • Business owners/operators are responsible for posting clearly visible by-law signage at all entrances. Please see below for how to access posters and decals:
  • Employees should wear a face covering in the enclosed areas of their business/building that are open to the public.
  • The by-laws exempt those who are unable to wear a face covering as a result of a medical condition or a disability. Some disabilities are invisible so we ask businesses and residents to be respectful and kind. The by-law does not require people to provide proof to support an exemption.

What if someone is not in compliance?

  • The by-law does not require business owners/operators to ensure by-law compliance.
  • Business owners/operators should not engage in confrontations with members of the public who are not wearing a face covering. You may politely remind patrons of the By-law requirement.
  • You can print by-law reminder cards to give to patrons. 
  • Business owners/operators may wish to contact Region of Waterloo By-law Enforcement if non-compliance is significant and ongoing and additional educational resources and support are needed. Please complete this by-law feedback form or call the Region of Waterloo Contact Centre 519-575-4400.  

Provincial emergency orders still apply 

  • Businesses are still required to comply with the emergency orders of the Province of Ontario in relation to your business as well as any recommendations from Public Health officials, including instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.
By-law enforcement 

The Region and its partners will not be doing active enforcement and ticketing related to these by-laws at this time. We continue to take an education-first approach, asking people to comply with the by-law and educating them on the importance of protecting each other. We are appealing to residents’ goodwill and willingness to cooperate for the greater good.

If you have concerns about someone not wearing a face covering, please keep in mind that there are a number of exemptions to the by-law and there is no requirement for people to prove their condition or disability. Many disabilities are invisible: residents and business owners should take people at their word and be kind and respectful.

If you have a concern related to the face covering by-law, please fill out the by-law feedback form and your feedback will be sent to the appropriate people.

We are asking that businesses and residents refrain from reporting individual non-compliance issues at this time as we all get used to the new rules. If non-compliance is significant and ongoing, please call our Regional Contact Centre at 519-575-4400. 

Feedback form

If you have a concern related to the face covering by-law, please fill out the form below and your feedback will be sent to the appropriate people.

Face covering by-law feedback form

FAQs 

Are face coverings a safe and effective way to prevent COVID-19?

COVID-19 spreads mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Droplets can travel up to 2 metres (6 feet) so wearing a face covering that covers your mouth, nose, and chin will help prevent respiratory droplets from reaching others or landing on surfaces.

Wearing a face covering when in public spaces protects others from your respiratory droplets. This is especially important in situations where physical distancing is often difficult or inconsistent such as commercial establishments.

Face coverings must be used in combination with good hand hygiene, not touching your face and physical distancing whenever possible.

How do I choose and wear a face covering properly?
Read all about face coverings, including FAQs on our Public Health Face Covering webpage.
Can a face covering that creates a seal around the nose and mouth area but does not completely cover the chin meet the requirements of this by-law? 

Yes, a face covering that creates, as per the bylaw, a seal or "barrier to limit the transmission of respiratory droplets” meets the requirements of the by-law, even if it does not completely cover the chin.

Who is required to wear a face covering under this by-law?
Any customer, patron, employee or visitor, who enters an enclosed public place must wear a mask except for those who are exempt.
Who is NOT required to wear a face covering?
 The by-laws exempt:
  • Children under the age of five; however, the Province of Ontario requires that children aged two years and older wear a face mask/covering
  • Those who are unable to wear a face covering as a result of a medical condition or a disability. Some disabilities are invisible so we ask people to respect that. The by-law does not require people to provide proof to support an exemption.
  • A person engaged in a sport or other strenuous physical activity.
  • A person who is assisting or accommodating someone who has a hearing loss or a hearing disability.
  • A person who is consuming food/drink as part of a religious activity within a place of worship.
Does the by-law require business owners to turn away people who are not wearing masks?
No. There is no requirement under the by-law for businesses to refuse entry to those not wearing face coverings. Businesses may choose to have their own policies that require masks.

How can customers who are unable to wear face masks be accommodated at establishments with their own policy in place? 

While the face covering by-law does not require businesses to turn away customers who are unable to wear face coverings, some businesses have chosen to put their own policies in place, mandating face coverings in their establishments. In many cases these policies have been put into place to protect the business’ employees.

Customers who are unable to wear a face covering should feel free to reach out to local businesses to see how their needs can be accommodated. In most cases, businesses will be happy to ensure the customer receives the product or service in another way, whether via phone, curbside pick up, or meeting in an outdoor setting.  

Can businesses require proof of exemption?
No. The by-law does not require people to provide proof to support an exemption.
Where am I required to wear a face covering?
 Face coverings are required in the following locations:
  • Buses, bus shelters, ION trains and ION platforms
  • Stores and shopping malls
  • Indoor areas of restaurants and bars, with the exception of patrons consuming food/drink
  • 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, with the exception of rented rooms
  • Laundromats
  • Indoor areas of fitness centres, gyms and recreational and 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

For more detail on exceptions, please consult the actual by-laws.

 

The by-laws do not have jurisdiction in:

  • federal or provincial buildings
  • colleges, universities or schools
  • hospitals or health facilities
  • offices of regulated health professionals
  • employee-only areas of businesses and other buildings
  • outdoor areas in streets, parks, sports facilities and patios
  • Child care facilities and day camps
  • Care facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities

Note: many of these businesses/facilities have their own requirements for masks.

How does indoor dining work with the Region’s mask by-law?

Face coverings are required to enter, leave, and for the washroom / general open public areas.  Face coverings are not required in the seating areas may be removed for eating and drinking.

Do patrons on a patio need to wear a face covering if they use the inside washroom of the restaurant?

Yes, patrons entering indoor hallways and washrooms of a restaurant or bar must put on a face covering.  They can take off the face covering when returning to the outdoor patio.

Do athletes and coaches have to wear face masks?

Athletes engaged in a sport or other strenuous physical activity are not required to wear face coverings. However, players should wear face coverings between shifts or when sitting within the bench area.  

Coaches should wear a face covering unless engaged in the sport during a practice.

Now that gyms and indoor pools are permitted to open in Stage 3 how will this work?

Face coverings are required by the by-law if the indoor gym facility is open to the public. Masks are not required while athletes/coaches/trainers are engaged in sports or other strenuous activity.

Face coverings are required within the public areas of indoor recreational facilities and municipal buildings including the entrance and pool deck.  A face covering is not required while swimming or for children under the age of five. 

Is a worship leader required to wear a mask in a place of worship during the service?

No. The worship leader is not required to wear a face covering while leading the service. However, the worship leader would need to wear a face covering if in the public area for congregation.

Does the by-law affect child care or summer day camps?

No. Child care facilities and day camps are exempt. The Province is best able to set the rules and guidelines for child care and camp operators in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Face Covering By-law applies only to indoor places that are accessible to the general public.

Do I need to wear a face covering attending a wedding at a place of worship?

Yes. If the wedding is indoors, everyone must wear a mask during the ceremony, including the person performing the ceremony and the couple getting married. 

Do I need to wear a face covering attending a visitation at a funeral home?

Yes. People attending a visitation at a funeral home need to wear a face covering. 

Do employees need to wear a face covering in staff only areas? 

No. The by-law does not cover staff-only areas such as lunch rooms and storerooms. Employers may have their own policies related to employee-only areas.

Employees are required to wear a face covering in areas where customers interact with one another or with staff members or in any areas that are accessible to members of the public, such as:

  • retail floor/aisles;
  • cashier queues;
  • service counter queues;
  • publicly accessible washrooms.

Workplaces may have other safety measures in place like plexiglass barriers, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and physical distancing.

How can establishments notify customers, patrons, employees or visitors about the by-law?

Business owners/operators are responsible for posting clearly visible by-law signage at all entrances. Decals and posters can be picked up at local city halls and township administrative offices or from local Chambers of Commerce (beginning July 13). You can also print your own signs here.

Businesses may also print by-law reminder cards to give to patrons.

Who is providing face coverings? Where can I get a free mask?

Residents must supply their own face covering. Some business owners/operators will supply masks but they are not required to do so. 

There are many ways for residents who cannot afford a mask to receive one at no cost. These include:

  • Most local social service agencies
  • The Welcome Spaces at Regional buildings (when they re-open)
  • Grand River Transit
  • Cambridge Memorial Hospital (at main entrance and Medical Day Care entrance)
  • Emergency shelters

The United Way Waterloo Region Communities is collecting donations and organizing the distribution of free fabric and disposable masks. More details will be available soon at www.uwaywrc.ca. If you are able to donate masks, please contact the United Way.

Will the face covering by-law be enforced?

By-law Enforcement continues to take an education-first approach, asking people to comply with the by-law and educating them on the importance of protecting each other. We are appealing to residents’ goodwill and willingness to cooperate for the greater good.

Do I still need to stay at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from people if wearing a face covering?

This is ideal and should be practiced whenever possible. Wearing a face covering is an important additional measure, especially when physical distancing is not possible. Continue to practice other health measures such as washing your hands frequently.

Do I have to show proof that I am exempt from the by-law?

No proof is required to show you are exempt from wearing a face covering. The expectation is that individuals who self-identify as exempt should be allowed into an enclosed public place.

How do I report someone for not wearing a face covering?

It’s important to keep in mind that Regional by-law enforcement will not be able to respond to all calls and will be focusing on education and compliance rather than enforcement. Business owners/operators can contact Region of Waterloo By-law Enforcement if non-compliance is significant and ongoing and additional educational resources and support are needed.  Please complete a by-law feedback form or call the Region of Waterloo Contact Centre at 519-575-4400.  

When will this by-law end?

This By-law shall be reviewed by Council once the face covering requirements for businesses and organizations in the regulations of the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O. 2020, c. 17, are revoked.
How does the Region’s face covering by-law work in taxis and app-based rides?
Starting Sept. 28th, all passengers in taxis, limousines, and other ride sharing vehicles are required to wear a face covering while in the vehicle, including cars equipped with a barrier between the front and back seats. A driver is not required to wear a face covering when there are no passengers in the vehicle or when there is a physical barrier between the driver and the passenger. 
Do you need to wear a face covering in the lobby or hall of an apartment/multi-residential building?

Yes, face coverings are required to be worn but only in the indoor common areas of the apartment buildings and townhouse complexes.  Examples of indoor common areas include, but are not limited to: lobbies, hallways, elevators, stairwells, laundry rooms, and community rooms.  Face coverings are not required in private residential units or in outdoor common areas.  The requirement for face coverings apply to apartment buildings and townhouse complexes even if such are condominiums, co-operatives, community housing or if access to the indoor common areas are restricted to residents only.  The landlord or designate is responsible for posting signs at entrances.

Need a sign for common areas in your building? Print here.

How does the Region’s face covering by-law work in taxis and app-based rides?

Starting Sept. 28th, all passengers in taxis, limousines, and other ride sharing vehicles are required to wear a face covering while in the vehicle, including cars equipped with a barrier between the front and back seats. A driver is not required to wear a face covering when there are no passengers in the vehicle or when there is a physical barrier between the driver and the passenger.

If you need a decal, please contact Licensing and Enforcement Services.

 

 

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