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Coronavirus: Lethbridge city council to begin discussions on face mask policies Monday

Lethbridge city council to discuss mandating face masks as COVID-19 case numbers rise in the city
WATCH ABOVE: With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing in Alberta in recent weeks, cities such as Calgary and Edmonton have passed temporary bylaws to mandate face masks in certain spaces. As Eloise Therien explains, Lethbridge may be following suit – but not all are pleased with the possibility.

The City of Lethbridge may be following in the footsteps of its northern counterparts. On Monday, city council is set to begin discussions on a mandatory face mask policy in city-owned facilities and transit.

Earlier this week, Calgary council voted in favour of making face coverings mandatory on transit and in public spaces, including shopping malls, entertainment facilities, and taxis. On Thursday, The City of Edmonton passed its own temporary bylaw to mandate masks on transit and in city-owned facilities.

Schools, daycares and private residences are currently exempt from the bylaws, both of which will take effect on August 1.

Read more: No plans for ‘heavy-handed’ mandatory mask policy, says B.C.’s top doctor

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman and Councillor Jeff Carlson put the motion forward for council’s upcoming meeting on July 27.

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The proposal outlines measures similar to those Edmonton has adopted, with the possibility for amendments to expand the mandate in the future.

“We need to take the recent rise in numbers as a warning,” Spearman said Friday.

“Each community is being asked to make its own decision, so we certainly want to have that discussion and that debate.”

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While the government of Alberta says they haven’t scrapped the notion of mandating masks across the province, they are encouraging municipalities to implement their own procedures as they see fit.

Read more: Coronavirus: University of Alberta study finds growing public support for face masks

Lethbridge Transit will be resuming its regular operations on August 4, with 226,000 non-medical face masks on hand for riders to use.

By mandating the use of masks on transit and inside city-owned facilities, Spearman said he hopes the city can decrease its number of COVID-19 cases before students return to school in the fall.

“We’re very concerned that schools will be opening in five weeks and students will be transported to school and then may not be required to wear masks,” he said.

Read more: 8 in 10 Canadians support mandatory masks in public places during COVID-19: poll

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While not everyone agrees with a mask bylaw, several Lethbridge residents said they would abide by the new regulation, should it be put in place following Monday’s council meeting.

“I think if our numbers keep going up, they need to be mandated” resident Brenda Hungrywolf said.

“My preference is not to wear a mask, but if I’m mandated to I would,” Bryan Weibe said.

“It’s just like any other kind of law, I want to be a law-abiding citizen.”

An online petition outlining a variety of requests to make masks mandatory in Lethbridge has received more than 1,600 signatures as of Friday afternoon.

Hinshaw says Alberta could inadvertently distract from other measures with mandatory masks
Hinshaw says Alberta could inadvertently distract from other measures with mandatory masks

Josee Meere, owner of Josee’s Handmade Imports in downtown Lethbridge, has taken it upon herself to require masks in her store — something she says most people have been receptive to.

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“I would say probably 90 per cent of the people are very cool with it,” Meere said. “You’ve got that 10 per cent that doesn’t want to, which is fine because we offer curbside.”

Meere said some people have simply refused to wear a mask in her store and have left, but that hasn’t deterred the store from rethinking the policy.