The Town of Rocky Mountain House wanted to hear what residents thought about making mask-wearing mandatory — and it got an earful.
Coun. Jason Alderson invited the public to comment on mask wearing on Facebook on Wednesday, and by Thursday afternoon, 145 people — almost exclusively against — had weighed in.
The issue rose to the fore at last week’s council meeting, when Alderson proposed a notice of motion that council take a look at making masks mandatory in public settings.
He did not say he supported mandatory mask wearing, only that council should take a look at the issue at its next meeting on Tuesday.
“Of late, it’s been a hot topic, with Edmonton and Calgary implementing the wearing of facial masks in public,” he told his council colleagues.
Alderson said it “would make sense” to put it on the next agenda to discuss whether the town should follow suit or wait for an Alberta Health Services mandate requiring mask wearing.
“I think it’s a worthwhile discussion,” said Alderson.
Those who took to Facebook to voice their opinions were overwhelmingly opposed.
Some threatened to boycott local stores and take their business elsewhere if they have to mask up to go shopping.
“No way. I am capable of shopping online and will do so even more if this goes thru!” wrote one person. “I boycott stores now that are falling into this pathetic scam and I will continue to do so! Maybe if we had hundreds of cases like the big cities but we don’t!!!”
“No, if it becomes mandatory I will be shopping elsewhere,” wrote another. “Red Deer isn’t even mandatory and they are a city.”
Mayor Tammy Burke said she had not had time yet to go through all of the online comments and wanted to wait until council’s discussion before commenting.
To wear or not to wear masks has been an issue of interest across the country, with many discussing what is the best thing to do, she said.
“And that’s what’s we’re going to be discussing on Tuesday. What we feel will be best for the community will be discussed,” said Burke.
Another Facebook commenter suggested mandatory mask wearing would be a “GROSS overeach” of government authority.
“You cannot demand people wear something that is proven to do a person harm, and has also been proven to be useless against the virus we are all told to fear…”
The commenter also pointed out Canada was a free country and it is up to individuals to decide if they want to wear a mask.
A local business owner commented that staff wear masks, but said she did not think it should be required.
“We appreciate those who do wear them, but also respect the choice,” she wrote. “I believe any mandates etc. should only come from an overall provincial government and health authority. (And I still wouldn’t agree with it then!),” said the business owner.
Many cited the low number of COVID-19 cases in the town and surrounding region, suggesting that mask wearing was an over-reaction at this time.
The latest Alberta Health COVID-19 figures show no active cases and three recovered for Clearwater County.
In Canada, just over 9,000 deaths have been linked to COVID-19. In the U.S., 166,000 have died so far.