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City of Edmonton ends mask-exemption card distribution just 5 days after launch

Questions continue about city of Edmonton mask exemption cards
After making masks mandatory in public spaces at the beginning of August, the City of Edmonton started the issue the exemption cards over the weekend using the honour-based system. As Vinesh Pratap explains, that is leading to questions about legitimacy.

The City of Edmonton announced Wednesday that its mask-exemption cards would no longer be available at city recreation facilities, just five days after it was launched.

The cards were handed out until 3 p.m. Wednesday at seven city-run recreation facilities, said a news release.

“We trust that those with legitimate exemptions have been able to obtain a card up to this point,” said a news release from the city. “We are reassessing the program and distribution mechanisms for those with a legitimate exemption and who may want a card but were unable to pick one up in person.”

The city also said it was “unable to say” when alternate distribution would happen for those who had not received a card yet.

On Tuesday, the city said it had handed out 3,866 exemption cards since the program launched on Saturday, Aug. 8. A city official said Wednesday that the total number of cards handed out through the five-day handout period was still being calculated.

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The City of Edmonton ended its mask exemption card program on Wednesday, just five days after it launched Saturday.
The City of Edmonton ended its mask exemption card program on Wednesday, just five days after it launched Saturday. Chris Chacon / Global News

The program was met with some criticism, although officials said Tuesday the bylaw exemption cards were launched after citizens with health issues raised concerns.

Read more: 3,800 exemption cards have been issued in wake of Edmonton face mask bylaw

“We know that this program is not without its flaws, but on balance, we believe it strikes the right mix of elements that compassionately support those who feel they need some way of signalling their exemption,” David Aitken, chair of the city’s COVID-19 task team, said Tuesday.

Those who are unable to place, use, or remove a face covering without assistance or those unable to wear a face-covering due to a mental or physical concern or limitation do not have to follow the bylaw under the Alberta Human Rights Act.

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Over 3,800 face mask exemption cards handed out in Edmonton, city addresses criticism
Over 3,800 face mask exemption cards handed out in Edmonton, city addresses criticism

Aitken also said Tuesday that even with the mask-exemption card system in place, compliance with the bylaw was estimated to be 85 per cent overall, over 96 per cent in city rec centres and over 90 per cent on transit.

The initial bylaw, which passed by a vote of 10-3, makes masks mandatory on public transit, in all city-owned facilities, all indoor public spaces such as retail stores, grocery stores, entertainment venues, recreation centres, restaurants and transit stations. It also applies to vehicles for hire like Uber and taxis.

Read more: Edmonton residents 80% compliant with new mandatory mask bylaw, city says

The city said the cards that have already been handed out remain valid.

–With files from Emily Mertz, Global News

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