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No mandatory masks in Okotoks yet, debate continues in mid-August

Members of Okotoks' town council began debating a proposed bylaw that would make mask use mandatory,. Getty Images

Residents living in Okotoks, Alta., won’t be mandated to wear a mask just yet.

On Monday evening, members of the town council began debating a proposed bylaw that would make mask use mandatory in all indoor public spaces, similar to a bylaw recently passed in Calgary.

However, an amendment to the proposed bylaw changed it to instead focus only on mandating masks in municipally-owned and controlled indoor public spaces, including transit.

Exemptions include children under the age of two, children between the ages of two and five who refuse to wear a mask and cannot be persuaded to do so by the caregiver accompanying them, people with medical conditions and people with disabilities.

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“Council felt this was an important measure to balance the safety of our community while allowing businesses the ability to choose how to apply health and safety measures,” Mayor Bill Robertson said in a Tuesday email. “Now is an important time to take action, as the Government of Alberta is reporting increasing numbers of daily COVID-19 cases across the province, especially in the Calgary area.”

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A motion arising near the end of the meeting, which passed, asked administrators to prepare a second bylaw that would expand mandatory mask use to all public indoor spaces if the number of active COVID-19 cases in Okotoks reaches 15.

At present, there are only five active cases in Okotoks.

Despite making it through two readings, the bylaw failed to proceed to a third reading because of one dissenting vote, according to Robertson.

“At this time, our focus will be on encouraging the public to voluntarily comply with the bylaw, and to help the public better understand that wearing masks is the right thing to do to protect each other,” manager of municipal enforcement Peter Stapley said.

Further debate on the bylaw will continue on Aug. 17.

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