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EDMONTON —
Starting Friday, Edmontonians will have to wear masks again in all public spaces, privately-owned businesses and municipal spaces as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across Alberta.

Masks or face coverings will need to be worn in all public places starting on Sept. 3, including at restaurants, recreation centres, and while on public transit, ride shares, and taxis.

City council voted to reinstate the mask mandate for Edmonton on Monday afternoon. The measure passed by 9-2, with Councillors Jon Dziadyk and Mike Nickel casting the only votes against.

This bylaw will go beyond current provincial public health measures, which do not mandate masks.

The measure will be in effect until Dec. 31, unless city council determines the bylaw should be renewed or rescinded sooner. Additionally, if active case counts in the Edmonton area fall below 100 per 100,000 people, the bylaw would be automatically struck. Right now, Edmonton has more than 200 cases per 100,000 population.

Exemptions to the bylaw will be in place for people exercising in recreation centres or gyms and activities in pools, as well as for people eating or drinking in restaurants.

Children under the age of two and those with mental or physical limitations are exempt from wearing masks, as well as those who are unable to use or remove a face covering without assistance.

‘THE RIGHT THING TO DO’

Council began the day debating whether to maintain a mask mandate on transit, taxis, and rides shares once the provincial rules mandating those expires Sept. 27.

Focus then shifted to implementing mandatory masks in all indoor public spaces.

A few councillors voiced concerns on behalf of local businesses that enforcement of the measure could be difficult alongside concerns that Edmonton would be implementing a mask mandate without the support of the metropolitan area around it.

Coun. Andrew Knack said he understood why some councillors felt like voting to mandate masks again was a difficult decision since the city was “in the dark,” as COVID-19 data and modelling the province promised would be released publically has not been.

“I would prefer not to be in this situation today,” Knack said. “I worry that taking no action beyond just continuing to wear (masks) on transit, is not enough at this time.

“If we are wrong and there is a better way to do it, the province can tell us,” he added. “But there is a void from that area.”

“We opened too fast in Alberta,” Mayor Don Iveson said. “Many people were concerned about that at the time. Exactly what was predicted at the time by the epidemiologists and the subject matter experts is happening.

“That is now contributing to fear,” he added. “Which ironically, is also bad for the economy. Just as we were celebrating that we were going to be able to kick the doors open, everything was going to be fine, now we’ve got workplaces and workers who are concerned about their safety on the frontlines again, we’ve got hospitals that are filling up again, and surgeries being postponed.”

The mayor said that while masks alone will not solve those issues, should the measure help bend the curve it is “the right thing to do.”

As of Friday, the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 infections in Alberta is up to 853, about where it was in mid-May when the province had announced stronger public health orders to “put the health-care system first.”

There were 9,655 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta on Friday, with the province adding over 1,000 new infections for three straight days.

There are at least 336 COVID-19 patients in hospital, representing the highest patient count since June 7. Included in that number are 74 patients in ICUs, the highest since June 11.

Andre Corbould, city manager, said enforcement of the bylaw would focus on education first. He added that since there is no provincial mandate, enforcement actions would be limited to city bylaw officers and the Edmonton Police Service.

Edmonton’s largest school districts both have mask mandates and several post-secondary institutions, including the University of Alberta, MacEwan University, and NAIT.

Jeffrey Sundquist, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said he welcomed the measure.

“With cases increasing, the Edmonton Chamber supports measures that will keep people safe, businesses open and the economy growing,” Sundquist said in a statement to CTV News Edmonton.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Matthew Black and Jeremy Thompson




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