Red Deer city council to vote on mandatory face mask bylaw

The City of Red Deer’s administration is recommending a mandatory face mask bylaw.

Red Deer’s bylaw, if passed Monday, would go into effect Aug. 31.

The bylaw includes mandatory face coverings on transit. If the number of COVID-19 cases rises to 25 or more per 100,000 people, the bylaw would also apply to indoor public spaces.

That is essentially the equivalent to 25 cases in the city. Thursday, Red Deer had 10 active COVID-19 cases.

If the bylaw isn’t passed, it’s recommended that council consider regulations that would only apply to city transit.

A report going to council said new evidence is emerging about mask wearing being an important measure in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“Current evidence supports that physical distancing (maintaining a distance of two metres or more), proper hand hygiene, and coughing and sneezing etiquette are the most effective strategies for decreasing the transmission of COVID-19 in the community,” the report says.

“However, increasing evidence indicates that wearing a face covering is an important added measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission, recognizing that people without symptoms may be infectious and that there is a higher risk for transmission in indoor settings.”

Part of the recommendation includes education and information ahead of active enforcement of the bylaw, but it also includes fines. Individuals in violation of the bylaw on transit or public spaces could face a $50 fine.

People with underlying medical conditions and children under the age of nine would not be required to wear masks and it would not apply to people eating in restaurants or those engaging in athletic or fitness activities.

The city says it has continued to follow guidance from the chief medical officer of health and the province. No guidance has come from the province mandating citizens to wear masks.

“While the case numbers in the City of Red Deer, and throughout most of the central zone, have remained low, COVID-19 is still a risk to our community. With recent increases in numbers in other parts of the province, including other parts of this region, vigilance is required,” the report read.

“This vigilance, coupled with conversation with internal and external stakeholders, is the driving force behind administration’s recommendations.”

The discussion comes after weeks of debate over the topic, with other cities such as Calgary and Edmonton passing mandatory face mask bylaws.

Strathcona County is also discussing a similar bylaw mandating face masks on transit and in city-owned facilities. Its bylaw would be contingent on case counts going above 25 per 100,000 residents.

Lethbridge passed its bylaw on Aug. 4, making face masks mandatory for all individuals visiting or working in publicly accessible spaces or in city-owned or operated indoor facilities.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9 p.m. on Aug. 13.

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