Masks or face coverings have been mandatory in all indoor public spaces and on public transit in Edmonton since the beginning of August, and the city says the overall compliance rate sits at 97 per cent.
The city’s Emergency Advisory Committee met on Thursday afternoon for an update on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his update to councillors, interim city manager Adam Laughlin said compliance of the bylaw on public transit is at about 96 per cent, compliance in vehicles for hire is about 93 per cent, compliance within public spaces is 99 per cent and compliance within community and recreation facilities is 97 per cent.
The compliance rate is up from about 80 per cent a week into the program.
Laughlin also provided an update on the city’s mask exemption card program, which was halted within five days of its launch.
The cards were offered at city rec centres at the beginning of August, shortly after the mask bylaw came into effect. The bylaw exemption cards were launched after citizens with health issues raised concerns. Nearly 4,000 cards were handed out within the first four days of the program.
However, the program was met with some criticism.
Laughlin said the city consulted with businesses, Alberta Health Services and the Edmonton zone medical officer of health and the city will continue to honour the cards that are currently in circulation. However, the city will not distribute any more cards.
“It’s not easy to land on something that, in a time of a pandemic, you hope humanity would permit — which is folks that have a legitimate exemption should be provided a mechanism to, in a dignified way, articulate what those are. But unfortunately, that’s not the situation we’re in,” Laughlin said.
“There’s a real tension between being able to provide something for those individuals that have a legitimate exemption without applying more pressure to the medical system, i.e., doctor’s notes, and clarity for the business improvement areas.”
Laughlin said Thursday that the city will continue to work with those who are legitimately unable to wear a mask for health or other reasons, which will include ensuring those who fall into the exemption category have a point of contact person within the city.
“If they run into a challenge in terms of having a legitimate exemption and running into a bit of an issue in terms of accessing services, what we’d like them to do is call into 311 and we have City of Edmonton staff that can provide support,” he said.
“Not only to them but also reach out to the services or the business that they’re trying to access and through education, through maybe dialogue, through discussion with those businesses or services, to see if there’s a different way to offer services to those individuals if they have a legitimate exemption to wearing a mask.”
Laughlin did not have a number for how many complaints about the bylaw have been reported to 311, but he said no tickets have been issued.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were 751 active cases of COVID-19 in the Edmonton zone — the highest number of active cases since the pandemic began.
Edmonton remained on the province’s “watch” list on Thursday, which happens when a region sees at least 10 active cases and a rate of over 50 active cases per 100,000 population. Edmonton’s active case rate was 65.8 per 100,000 on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases continue to rise here in Edmonton,” Mayor Don Iveson said. “Unlike at the beginning of this pandemic, it is very clear what Edmontonians need to do to keep cases down.
“I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but again, I must stress the importance of following Alberta Health Services’ guidelines, which include practicing physical distancing, wearing a mask in public and practicing good hygiene… Monitoring for symptoms and self-isolating if you do have symptoms and getting tested.
“Most Edmontonians are doing a phenomenal job of this and that’s noted and that’s appreciated and that is helping us keep the economy open and it is helping save lives, but we need to double down on all of these commitments and hold each other capable and to the highest standard.”
Laughlin also noted the city is in the process of preparing for a potential second wave of the coronavirus, although didn’t go into great detail about exactly what those preparations look like. He noted a number of indicators the city is keeping an eye on, including the number of active cases of COVID-19 in the region and the number of outbreaks.View link »