Lethbridge city council voted Monday to make face masks mandatory on transit and at city facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting Aug. 4, all transit riders will be required to wear face coverings when buses resume their regular routes and fares.
Council reached that decision in a unanimous vote.
“The number of active COVID-19 cases in the city of Lethbridge has increased significantly in the past 10 days. It is our common desire to sustain the local economy and support businesses in the city of Lethbridge,” said Mayor Chris Spearman in a press release.
“The wearing of masks has been shown to be an effective means of slowing community transmission of COVID-19. We strongly encourage all residents to wear masks in public. First and foremost, we want to educate our residents about the importance of face coverings.”
Spearman co-sponsored the motion with Coun. Jeff Carlson.
“I think we spent the time to air all those views, both the pro and con.”
Last week, Calgary city council voted in favour of making masks mandatory on transit and in public spaces, including shopping malls, entertainment facilities and taxis.
On Thursday, Edmonton passed its own temporary bylaw to mandate masks on transit and in city-owned facilities.
Banff passed a mandatory mask bylaw on Monday, too.
“It took us so long to get to a decision. This isn’t rocket science,” said Coun. Rob Miyashiro.
“This is very simple. All the data, all the evidence says you wear masks, you slow down COVID, and at some point, you’ll stop it. You slow down the rate of infection is what it’s all about.”
Riders will be encouraged to bring their own masks, but a face covering will be provided for those who do not have one.
City council also voted 8-1 in favour of asking the city manager to implement mandatory masks in public areas of all city facilities as soon as it is feasible.
The city said independent businesses can implement their own mask policies as they see fit.
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.
Spearman added that Lethbridge is witnessing the same trend of COVID-19 cases as the rest of Alberta, as numbers continue to rise steadily.
“What we’re seeing now is the result of activities that happened two weeks ago and we want to make sure the city of Lethbridge is ready five weeks from now when kids go back to school, people are wanting to go back to work,” Spearman said.
“We’re doing everything we possibly can as a community to make sure we’re not assisting with the spread.”
The city manager is also being directed to begin preparing appropriate legislation, no later than Aug. 10, mandating the required use of face coverings citywide, should it be required at a later date.
While the government of Alberta said it has not scrapped the notion of mandating masks across the province, it is encouraging municipalities to implement their own procedures as they see fit.
– With files from Global News’ Eloise Therien