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Masks in the mountains: Banff considers mandatory face coverings during COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19: Banff looks at mandatory masks after unanticipated busy summer visitation
WATCH: The Town of Banff is looking at making masks mandatory in both indoor public spaces and on the outdoor pedestrian corridor that’s taken over Banff Avenue. As Lauren Pullen reports, Banff officials say the number of visitors to the town is approaching what they saw this time last year, even with the pandemic.

Visitors to the Town of Banff who aren’t wearing masks will likely be approached by one of several safety ambassadors that will be handing out disposable face coverings.

The town is exploring making masks mandatory during the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of visitors to the popular mountain town continues to increase.

Read more: American tourists in Alberta? RCMP investigating possible breaches of COVID-19 restrictions

For now, six safety ambassadors have been hired to hand out the 100,000 masks — provided by the provincial government — seven days a week.

In an effort to make it easier for people to get outside but keep their distance from other visitors, the popular Banff Avenue was made pedestrian-only, however according to deputy mayor Chip Olver, physical distancing is still a challenge.

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“With people going in all different directions, it’s hard for them to maintain the six-foot distance that we would like to have maintained and that Alberta Health Services recommends,” Olver told Global News on Tuesday.

Dr. Hinshaw ‘strongly recommends’ wearing masks in public
Dr. Hinshaw ‘strongly recommends’ wearing masks in public

Olver said the amount of traffic is approaching last year’s numbers, which is higher than they anticipated for the summer considering the pandemic.

She added there’s a lot of research going into a possible bylaw, adding that spaces like the pedestrian zones and publicly accessible indoor spaces like malls and hotels would be subject to the new regulation.

Read more: Banff ‘ready to welcome visitors back’ as Alberta eases COVID-19 restrictions

“My dream when we talked about it yesterday was that it would be in place for the August long weekend,” Olver said.

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“And I think that’s overly ambitious, but certainly our ambassadors will be there handing out masks.”

Firefighters participated in a pilot of the project this past weekend, handing out nearly 3,000 masks on the busy streets, and Olver said they reported “really good compliance.”