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Monday, December 5, 2022
Niagara Region makes face masks mandatory indoors starting July 31

Only two councillors didn't support measure, including NOTL's Gary Zalepa

Julia Sacco

The Lake Report

Face masks will be mandatory across the region starting Friday, July 31 after Niagara Regional Council nearly unanimously voted to impose the restriction.

Niagara-on-the-Lake regional councillor Gary Zalepa told council last Thursday he wanted to “abstain” from voting, counting him as one of two “no” votes alongside West Lincoln Mayor David Bylsma.

Previously Zalepa said he would follow the advice of the acting medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, who didn’t support mandatory masks, saying it was a decision elected officials should make.

The regional bylaw will supersede similar regulations already passed by NOTL and St. Catharines.

Children age five and up will have to wear masks, a change from NOTL’s bylaw, which set the threshold at age 10. The regional rules will be in effect until Oct. 31.

Unlike two weeks earlier, when councillors debated for 4.5 hours and made no decision, there was not much discussion on the approval of the bylaw thanks to a motion from Thorold regional councillor Tim Whalen calling for an immediate vote.

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, who had a chance to speak, supported the measure.

“Last time we weren’t voting for or against the bylaw, we were voting for or against the deferral.”

“I didn’t think it was a good idea to vote on something and then amend it later. That’s the tail wagging the dog. I wanted to make sure that we got it right.”

“I believe now we’ve come to the point where this is a bylaw I think we all can support.”

Welland Mayor Frank Campion said it’s important to collaborate as a community to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The time has come, we’re going to Stage 3 (of the pandemic recovery). Though I will remind everyone that this is not the silver bullet, it’s a part of a large group of things that we need to do,” said Campion.

The bylaw 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
  • Laundromats
  • 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 Niagara Region and local area municipalities
  • Municipal buildings