Red Deer’s proposed mandatory mask bylaw could exempt businesses serving fewer than 15 customers at a time, as well as bars, restaurants and child care centres.
The exemption for very small businesses was suggested by Coun. Vesna Higham, who felt the masking bylaw could cause them undue hardship.
By not all councillors thought this amendment was a good idea.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes voted against it, stating it would be confusing for business owners and customers.
“It could cause more questions and challenges… how many citizens would know how many others are in a business?”
Would it mean that merchants must change their masking policies depending on how busy they get on certain days before Christmas?
“That’s a good question,” said city manager Allan Seabrooke on Tuesday.
“We’re having our legal team looking at what it all means. We will want to know the pros and cons, and any advice from them,” he said.
If the bylaw gets final approved by council on Monday, face coverings will be required in all un-exempted indoor public places and public vehicles.
However, they would not apply to customers in restaurants, cafes or bars, where food or beverages are consumed.
Children under nine, the disabled, or anyone engaging in heavy labour or physical fitness activities would also be exempted from masking.
The bylaw would apply to passengers of taxis or rides for hire — but not to drivers who are behind an installed vehicle barrier.
Affected businesses would have to display signage indicating to patrons that masks must be worn. The fine for not wearing a mask in a public place is proposed to be $50.
Seabrooke said city council will discuss on Monday whether to add a fine for people who intimidate or harass store staff after being asked to wear a mask.
The point of the new bylaw is not to replace other pandemic protocols, such as physical distancing, limiting cohorts and hand washing, but rather, to add another tool to the arsenal against viral spread, said Seabrooke.
Coun. Tanya Handley said she’s disturbed when she sees people wearing masks, but standing only two feet apart and having a prolonged conversation.
“This is not life as normal,” she warned. “Even if you’re wearing a mask, it’s possible to get infected with COVID-19. There are no guarantees. … You need to ask, did you do everything that you are able to do?”
A more limited face-covering bylaw, which pertains only to Red Deer’s city-owned civic facilities, was approved Monday.
This bylaw takes effect immediately and covers employees and patrons in any city facilities where services are provided to the public. Masks are required unless staff are within an office or cubicle.