Albertans enter a COVID-19 mass immunization clinic in downtown Calgary on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Edmonton may keep mask bylaw until 70 per cent of its population fully vaccinated

Edmonton may keep mask bylaw until 70 per cent of its population fully vaccinated

Edmonton’s mayor says he is considering a request from a doctors group that he and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi keep masking bylaws in place until at least 70 per cent of their cities’ eligible populations have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Don Iveson said during a media briefing Tuesday that he’s concerned about lifting masking bylaws in lockstep with the final stage of the Alberta government’s reopening plan.

Last week, the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association sent a letter to both mayors that expressed concern about the pace of the province’s plan, given that a variant first identified in India is able to infect two-thirds of people who have only had a single dose.

“This reckless relaxing of precautions and allowing super-spreader events to take place is likely to jeopardize the smooth reopening of schools and workplaces in the fall,” the association wrote in a Thursday letter addressed to the mayors.

Iveson said the doctors’ groups that have issued warnings about reopening plans “have been right every time.”

“So their track record speaks for itself and I take their input very seriously.”

Nenshi said in an email Tuesday that Calgary city council plans to discuss its face-covering bylaw and is weighing all options.

“The safety and protection of our community remains our priority, and will guide our decisions,” he said.

Iveson said he and Nenshi have agreed to keep in touch as both city councils debate the issue.

In Calgary, there is also a debate about the timing of masking bylaws and the Calgary Stampede that is expected to start in early July.

“Albertans may travel to the Stampede for something to do, so it’s also by proxy an issue for our citizens and for our doctors,” Iveson said.

“If people get sick and come home or if things get bad in Calgary and they need to overflow to here, those are all knock-on impacts to our community and to our health-care workers.”

The province has said Stage 3 of its reopening plan, which could happen as early as June 24, would see all health restrictions lifted as long as 70 per cent of Albertans 12 and over had received at least one shot.

Premier Jason Kenney has said the province is ready to go ahead Thursday with its second stage, which allows up to 20 people at outdoor gatherings, weddings and funeral services, but still bans indoor gatherings.

It also allows indoor recreation, entertainment and other settings to open at a third of the venue’s fire code occupancy. Gyms and fitness studios can open for solo and drop-in activities, as well indoor fitness classes with proper distancing.