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Coronavirus: Communities surrounding Calgary to hold special meetings on mandatory masks

Coronavirus: Communities surrounding Calgary to hold special meetings on mandatory masks
WATCH: At least four municipalities around Calgary are holding special meetings this week to discuss mandatory masks in indoor public spaces. Calgary introduced a bylaw that goes into effect on Aug. 1. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, mayors are calling on the province to take the lead on the issue.

People living in Okotoks could find out on Monday night if they will be required to wear masks in public places during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s when town council will be debating a mandatory mask bylaw that would require mask use in all indoor public spaces. A special online council meeting will be held at 7 p.m.

The meeting will be livestreamed and the link will be available on the town’s website.

Mandatory mask discussion in municipalities surrounding Calgary
Mandatory mask discussion in municipalities surrounding Calgary

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Okotoks resident Janet Gaskell on Sunday.

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“I know people have very strong opinions on it. For me, I’m really comfortable with it being over 60 so we are in that age group where you have to really be careful.”

Okotoks resident Beth Loucks said she’s fine with any measures that could help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I wear them going into stores anyways,” Loucks said.

Read more: COVID-19: Calgary prepares for mandatory mask bylaw to take effect

Face masks will be mandatory in all indoor public spaces and on public transit in Calgary and Edmonton as of Aug. 1 after both cities approved new bylaws.

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Okotoks mayor Bill Robertson said the feedback he has received has been split down the middle. He supports wearing masks in public spaces but isn’t sure if it should be mandated by law by the town.

“I would prefer that it was a provincial thing, absolutely. I would prefer that the province did this because otherwise, it’s too haphazard in my opinion. People travelling around the province rolling into a town may or may not know, may or may not see the sign in a business window, for example,” Robertson said.

Read more: Coronavirus: N.S. makes masks mandatory in indoor public places, no new cases Friday

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Airdrie city council is holding a special meeting to discuss mandatory masks on Tuesday, July 28 at 1 p.m.

Mayor Peter Brown thinks the direction should be coming from Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, not municipalities. Brown said he needs more information before being able to decide if he supports mandatory masks.

“Does it now fall to the business to enforce the bylaws that the municipality has put in place? And what does that look like if you have a cashier or someone that’s working at the front who says, ‘Excuse me, sir, you need a mask?’ Who is responsible for a possible confrontation?” Brown said on Sunday.

Mandatory masks in public spaces will be discussed by Banff town council on Monday and by Cochrane town council at a special meeting on Wednesday, July 29.

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Read more: COVID-19: Edmonton to make masks mandatory in city-operated facilities, on public transit

Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung said he’s been inundated with calls and emails.

“It’s really been a polarizing issue. I have heard an almost 50-50 split of people campaigning and lobbying for us to have a mandated mask bylaw and those who want it to remain voluntary,” Genung said.

“I understand the fear in the residents but at the same time, I would like to allow the freedom for people to voluntarily do what they feel is right for themselves.”

Genung said Cochrane currently has three COVID-19 cases. He thinks it would make more sense for the province to take the lead on the issue of mandatory masks.

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“I would completely wish that the province would take this into their own hands as we have followed the guidelines all along. Health is a provincial jurisdiction. It’s really pitting resident against resident and business owner against the community. It’s just not a good place to be in. So as an elected official, this is really something we are struggling with,” Genung said.

Read more: Quebec becomes first province to make masks mandatory in enclosed public places

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, has said she strongly recommends that Albertans wear masks.