November 25th, 2020

City Notebook: Will the city alter its stance on masks as cases spike?

By Medicine Hat News Opinion on November 14, 2020.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Ever since the spring, Medicine Hat’s top elected official has maintained that it’s not his job to determine health regulations, and that things seemed to be going well without local mask restrictions.

Both have been technically correct, up until 3 p.m. on Friday.

Without a confusing mashup of numbers, figures and long retelling of measures and levels, Medicine Hat has entered COVID Watch status.

Plain and simple, that means cases are rising.

Matched with cursed winter weather, and reruns of the March lockdown in Hatters’ minds, the mood is not good.

Even the provincial government was forced to un-paint itself from a corner this week and bring in restrictions to match calls for voluntary compliance.

Might Medicine Hat city council as well?

The Gas City was spared from double-digit case numbers for most of the summer, and the company line from city council members was they would consider increased local measures if and when the situation changed.

Medicine Hat’s case level just snuck under the point Thursday when bars would close early, and youth sports leagues would be suspended, among other things.

That was Thursday, however, and Medicine Hat’s island status in southeast Alberta’s sea of restrictions disappeared on Friday.

Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston called the pandemic a tightrope walk this week, managing mindsets, the economy and health concerns.

And, he clearly doesn’t want to be in the middle of the mask issue.

Several times he’s said the vast majority of Hatters wear masks voluntary, but that is as debatable as it is hard to prove one way or the other.

All of his council mates were happy to say things seemed to be going well, but they were watching the situation.

Two even more recently took to wearing masks at public events.

Clugston’s position is probably in line with Joe and Jane Hatter’s take on the whole pandemic. Let’s face it, it’s been a long time and not much has happened. That’s two strikes in most Hatters’ minds.

But, there have been calls to do more, and get ahead of a wave of cases that is apparently here now and likely still coming.

At times – and a sign of the times – groups decrying mask use protested the city’s stance on them, even though it’s the opposite.

And it’s stranger still that cities and local officials take the flack and have none of the power or ability to enforce health measures.

Municipal hospital boards or local health departments haven’t existed for decades.

As for Alberta Health Services, the News can’t even get a straight answer on why populations for Cypress County and Medicine Hat seem to both include Redcliff.

It doesn’t bolster confidence.

Nor does it that the city’s emergency management department gets the same information that the general public gets and at the same time.

So what’s the city to do?

A look ahead

The announcement of a new chief of police will be made at the end of city council’s Monday meeting, according to a basic item on an agenda released late Friday.

The city has been seeking a replacement for chief Andy McGrogan since he announced his impending retirement at the end of 2020.

The meeting will also feature initial projections for utility rate changes in 2021, information about a land sale, and discussions of transactions in the land department and well inventory.

100 years ago

Prime Minister Arthur Meighen was given three cheers on a platform erected in front of Medicine Hat city hall, but Mayor Brown laid out a list of issues affecting the west in bitterly cold weather, the News reported on Nov. 11, 1920.

Medicine Hat observed the “two-minute stop,” which was becoming the accepted norm for marking the anniversary of the armistice.

A multi-denominational service was held at the appointed hour at St. John’s in the Hat.

The Great War Veterans Association counted 25,000 members in Alberta at 127 locals – the highest number of any province.

That was according to provincial president W.A. Irwin, who addressed local members in the GWVA’s new quarters of the “old courthouse” in Medicine Hat.

Hunger strikes in Ireland’s prisons were called off after 94 days.

In women’s items, fashionable English women were taking up pipe smoking, according to a correspondent who also noted monocles, bobbed hairstyles and more masculine neckwear as a recent rages.

Collin Gallant covers city politics and a variety of topics for the News. Reach him at 403-528-5664 or via email at cgallant@medicinehatnews.com

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6 days ago

What’s the city to do?? Be pro-active not re-active, develope a mask bylaw, pass it and have our renowned MH police enforce and ticket the law breakers! Search for some fortitude councillors!