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Calgary city council approves mask bylaw in public places, vehicles

The City of Calgary will mandate masks on both public vehicles and public premises in the city to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The city had originally been considering a Calgary Transit mandatory mask order, but with a recent significant upswing in COVID-19 cases, the city jumped ahead to expand the mandate.

In Tuesday’s provincial update, Alberta added another 141 cases, continuing its upward trend in a post-relaunch situation. Over the weekend, from Friday to Sunday, Alberta added 368 coronavirus cases.

While the province hasn’t made masks mandatory, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has said that anyone not able to maintain the two-metre distance should wear a mask.

The city’s bylaw will mandate that masks are worn in these locations, as of Aug. 1. The bylaw was approved 12-3, with Couns. Sean Chu, Jeromy Farkas and Joe Magliocca opposed.

A person doesn’t need to wear a mask if they’re separated by an installed screen, shield or other barrier. There are also other exemptions to the bylaw.

In the first part of this week’s combined meeting of council, councillors heard from both Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson, and Calgary doctor Raj Bhardwaj.

“If we want to gain control of this infection… we should use all the tools available to us, not leave one tool on the shelf unused,” Bhardwaj told councillors in that meeting.

“We need to act quickly, broadly, or we will be chasing this for a long, long time.”

‘Time is of the essence’

Some councillors questioned whether this was the jurisdiction of the city to make public health decisions like this. However, in the absence of direction from the province, city’s are able to enact their own local bylaws, council was told.

“Time is of the essence. We have a window, we have a fixed, seven-week window colleagues, to see what we can do to try to bend this curve back to where our children will be able to go to school this fall, where businesses will not have to shut down again, and some of them never able to recover,” said Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, in her close.

The penalty for failing to wear a face mask is $100. Failure to post proper signage in an indoor location requiring a face mask is $200.

Calgary city council still has the opportunity to make changes to the proposed bylaw at the July 27 meeting.