Municipalities debating stricter mask rules as COVID cases increase

Red Deer not following Calgary’s lead in bringing in mask requirements at all indoor public spaces

An increasing number of Alberta municipalities are wrestling with whether to require their residents to wear masks indoors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said the city has no plans to make mask wearing mandatory, but is watching the situation closely.

“We may very well need to consider mandatory use on transit and in city facilities in the coming weeks,” said the mayor, adding the city is making its decisions based on advice from Alberta Health.

“I think given the level of the numbers in Calgary and Edmonton, and some of the tourism destination communities, I don’t think it’s surprising that they’re pursuing it sooner, rather than later.

“But having said that, the case numbers in Red Deer are a bit different.”

The Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce sees no need yet for mandatory masking in public spaces.

“Our priority is to see the economy remain open, so that employers and employees alike can maintain their livelihoods and support their families,” said Reg Warkentin, the chamber’s policy and government affairs manager.

“Red Deer businesses have already undertaken significant and costly preventative measures, including plexiglass barriers, masks, limiting capacity, one-way walking traffic and hand-sanitation stations, and it is working.

“Many consumers are choosing to wear masks and almost everyone is maintaining social distancing in public spaces.”

Calgary council recently voted to mandate that face coverings must be worn in all indoor public spaces and on transit beginning Saturday. Mandatory mask wearing in Calgary public schools has also been suggested.

Two nearby communities, Airdrie and Okotoks, opted not to make masks mandatory — at least not yet.

Some on Airdrie council questioned whether civic politicians should be making health decisions.

In Okotoks, council opted to delay making a decision until a meeting in mid-August.

Banff took a different approach, passing a regulation on Monday requiring masks in all confined indoor public spaces. The same day, Lethbridge’s council voted in favour of requiring masks on all public transit.

Edmonton council was debating the issue on Wednesday, with elected representatives appearing split on the issue.

Vanessa Messinger, of Red Deer’s Messinger Meats Artisan Butcher and Bistro, said all of the store’s staff serving customers wear masks.

The reaction from patrons — especially at first — was mixed. Some did not like the mask wearing and wondered if it was necessary.

Opinions seem to be changing with the recent increase in COVID cases across Alberta, she said.

“Now that there are a lot more cases, it does give people ease (to see staff wearing masks),” said Messinger.

Messinger Meats stopped offering sit-down dining in its bistro in mid-March, when Alberta closed restaurants. The bistro remains closed for now.

Should health authorities or the municipality decide masks should be worn in all indoor public places, Messinger Meats would be fully in support, she said.

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