Coronavirus: City of Lethbridge requires face coverings in over a dozen city-owned facilities starting Friday

First day of mandatory mask use at city-owned facilities in Lethbridge
WATCH ABOVE: Starting Friday, visitors to more than a dozen city-owned facilities are now required to wear a face covering or face mask in an effort to better protect Lethbridge residents currently dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Eloise Therien explains how the first day of the regulation went, and how the city plans to enforce this health measure.

The City of Lethbridge is now requiring staff and visitors to wear a face covering when entering its public facilities, although it won’t be turning anyone away or fining them if they refuse.

“It’s really not around getting into altercations or disagreements with people or refusal or service,” said recreation and culture manager Robin Harper. “It’s more of an education piece where we’re trying to educate the public on why wearing a mask is important.”

As a catalyst for the decision, the city says it is following guidance from public health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the chief public health officer of Canada and the chief medical officer of health for Alberta, who continue to strongly recommend the wearing of face coverings to limit the spread of COVID-19 where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Read more: Canada to release mask guidelines for children, recommend them for kids aged 10+

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On Friday, more than a dozen facilities began the mandate, including:

  • city hall
  • Galt Museum
  • Fort Whoop Up
  • Helen Schuler Nature Centre
  • Lethbridge Regional Park ‘n’ Ride Transit Terminal
  • Lethbridge Airport Terminal
  • Lethbridge Public Library (Downtown and Crossings branches)
  • ice arenas
  • cemetery office

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The city recommends checking in with swimming pools, CASA, the Lethbridge Animal Shelter, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, the Multicultural Centre and the Cor Van Raay YMCA before attending to find out their individual masking policies

All aforementioned facilities have been provided with disposable masks, but Harper says they strongly encourage the public to get in the habit of bringing their own.

Children under two years old won’t be required to wear them, nor will individuals who can’t remove or place the coverings on by themselves.

This requirement comes after masks were mandated on Lethbridge Transit for all riders on Aug. 4.

Those participating in physical activity at city-owned facilities won’t be required to wear a face covering while doing so, but rather just in certain spaces.

“Once they get past the into the physical activity spaces, the aquatic spaces, they won’t be required to wear a mask,” Harper said.

Read more: Mandatory mask rule to take effect on Lethbridge Transit Aug. 4

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Graham Ruttan with the Galt Museum and Fort Whoop Up says the first day following the requirement went quite smoothly.

“It’s been really good,” Ruttan said. “Visitors we’ve had coming in to both sites have been wearing masks.”

Masks will also be mandatory for Grade 4-12 students returning to class in the fall, as announced by the province earlier this week.

Some say Friday’s mandate in Lethbridge may provide the opportunity for parents and their kids to prepare.

“As we have these few weeks before school starts, we can practise with our children [what is] safe protocol for taking them on and off,” said Vicky Hazelwood, the co-ordinator of Building Brains Together.

Lethbridge city council will be discussing a possible first reading of a bylaw to mandate face masks in all public spaces when councillors meet next Monday.