By Dale Woodard on April 7, 2021.
Lethbridge’s Mandatory face covering bylaw will be extended until the end of the year.
On Tuesday, Lethbridge City Council voted 6-3 to extend the municipality’s Temporary Mandatory Face Covering Bylaw until December 31.
Council has the ability to rescind Bylaw 6239 prior to the extension date of December 31, 2021, should it not be required.
Council also passed first reading for an amending Bylaw to harmonize the City of Lethbridge Bylaw exemptions with the Chief Medical Officer of Health Order exemptions. Bylaw 6278 – Amendment No. 1 of the Temporary Mandatory Face Coverings Bylaw, includes sections regarding active case numbers, the Provincial R factor â€” and that personal precautions in public spaces will continue to be recommended until after population immunity is achieved. Second and third readings will take place at a future Council meeting.
Bylaw 6239, which was enacted on August 24, 2020, states that a face covering must be worn at all times while in an indoor, enclosed, or substantially enclosed public place or in a public vehicle. This includes places like malls, grocery stores, retail businesses, churches, taxi and ridesharing businesses. On December 8, 2020, the Province of Alberta enacted a province-wide mandatory mask requirement â€” which is also still in effect.
In addition, the Lethbridge bylaw also requires all businesses to post mandatory face covering signage to help remind patrons of the local face covering bylaw. There are no mandatory signage requirements associated with the provincial mandate.
“I remember back in the months of October and November the numbers in Lethbridge were lower than other areas and there was a significant issue in the province where the ICUs and the hospital numbers were getting very scary. The province didn’t pass their mask bylaw until Dec. 7,” said Lethbridge mayor Chris Spearman, adding he heard of an instance at a major box store in Lethbridge where someone counted 25 people not wearing a mask in five minutes and left because they didn’t feel safe. “Not only do we need a mask law and not only do we need all members of council supporting that mask law, we need it to be enforced. I’ve very sympathic to the concept that the time for education has passed. I think people protesting and not being ticketed week after week and not wearing masks in public in a place where they don’t have a permit to protest, I think that needs to be enforced and we need to have a strong bylaw.”
Voting against the bylaw alongside councillor Joe Mauro and Ryan Parker, acting mayor Blaine Hyggen pointed to a provincial bylaw already in place.
“Wearing a facemask is definitely important and it’s not that we are against facemasks,” he said. “I don’t know many places I go to where I do not see somebody wearing a face mask. We brought this bylaw in to educate and I can’t remember the last time I saw someone not wearing one. I think we did well with that. It has done it’s purpose and now there’s a provincial mask bylaw brought in by experts that monitor our community on a daily basis and hourly at times, and so I’m will leave that with the experts.”
The bylaw was originally set to expire Jan. 12, 2021, unless extended by Council resolution. On November 30, 2020, City Council voted 6-3 to extend the Temporary Mandatory Face Coverings Bylaw until February 23, 2021. On that date, Council voted 6-3 to extend it to April 30, 2021.
Deputy Mayor Rob Miyashiro said masks work to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“That has been proven and espoused by different levels of health organizations across the world. Lethbridge is no different and our numbers are horrible right now, whether it’s from family gatherings or faith groups meetings or kids playing on the playground, it’s doesn’t matter what the cause is, if people are following the right steps we’re going to help reduce the numbers or help stop the spread. That’s all there is to it.”
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