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Temporary mask bylaw will affect all Calgary public spaces – including restaurants

Going out without a face mask may be an expensive mistake, a fine for not wearing a mask in required spaces is $50 and will begin on August 1.

On July 21, city council approved a temporary bylaw which will make masks mandatory in most indoor spaces and public transit.

Businesses are also required to provide signage explaining face mask requirements and face fines of $200 if proper signage is not up.

One sign doesn’t fit all

There are several exceptions to the face coverings bylaw, all of which can be found on the city’s website.

With so many exceptions some members of council said the rules of the bylaw are too confusing. 

Councillor Ward Sutherland questioned the language around the new bylaw saying it was not easy to understand based on each type of business. 

“It’s very confusing if you’re in the restaurant business or other setting because the one sign says all persons must wear a face covering in indoor public premises and in public vehicles,” said Sutherland.

“One sign doesn’t fit all and it’s going to make it confusing for the customer, anybody looking at it before they walk in.”

What is considered ‘public space’

Another question brought up by council was what is a public space.

Workplaces are not included in the bylaw, employees within areas of general access, like a car showroom, are however expected to wear masks.

Restaurant owners are asking why face masks are required for customers entering establishments. 

According to the bylaw, customers entering bars and restaurants must wear a face mask until a beverage or food item is brought to the table. 

If a customer leaves their seat to go to the bathroom, they’re required to put their mask back on. 

Calgary peace officers will work with the Calgary Police Service to enforce the bylaw.

Contention among council members

The discussion of wearing masks while sitting at a table was heavily debated during Tuesday’s council meeting. 

Both Mayor Nenshi and councillor Evan Woolley questioned the necessity of wearing masks at tables when people are not actively eating. 

“I would be happy to just say, once you’re seated at the table you don’t have to wear your mask anymore, as opposed to, you know, you have to put it on between your entree and your dessert,” said Nenshi. 

Councillor Jeromy Farkas disagreed and said in order to align with health and safety guidelines face masks should be worn at all times.

“I think that we need to have absolute alignment with our chief and local medical officers of health,” said Farkas. 

Fines will be reduced from $100 to $50

After a heated debate, council voted 10-5 that fines for not wearing a mask be dropped from $100 to $50.

Fines for business without proper signage will remain at $200.

Masks in schools

Councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart made a motion to ‘invite the chairs of local education to present at a future meeting of the SPC on community and protective services on their COVID response programs,’ to ask that students and teachers wear masks when schools reopen. 

Mayor Nenshi said that Catholic schools are asking students to bring masks to school and that public schools may not be far behind.

“The public school board is still working on their guidelines. So I don’t know what those will say, but I imagine those will come out in the next few days,” said Nenshi.

The general consensus of city council was that the decision on masks in schools should be left to Dr. Hinshaw instead of cit council. 

The temporary bylaw will be in place until September 15, unless city council decides to make changes sooner.