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‘Time was now’ to implement new mask policy, says City of Kelowna

Click to play video 'City of Kelowna has considered a mask policy for months but was prompted to implement it following a surge in cases of COVID-19' City of Kelowna has considered a mask policy for months but was prompted to implement it following a surge in cases of COVID-19
City of Kelowna has considered a mask policy for months but was prompted to implement it following a surge in cases of COVID-19 – Nov 3, 2020

Following the lead of other B.C. municipalities, the City of Kelowna now requires face masks to be worn in all city-owned and operated facilities.

“We’ve been looking at whether or not we should be requiring masks to be used in different city facilities for several months now,” said Lance Kayfish, risk manager for the City of Kelowna.

And with a surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the province, the city decided the time was now.

Read more: Face masks now required inside all YMCA-operated facilities

“As we move into the fall and seeing numbers increasing and we listen to the public health officer Bonnie Henry, we were just thinking it’s time now to implement the mask policy at city facilities, just for the safety of everyone,” Kayfish told Global News.

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The mask policy applies to all civic properties, but there are exemptions for specific areas within recreation facilities, including Parkinson Rec Centre.

“For instance, if you’re going for a swim or you were going for a workout at one of our fitness facilities, a mask is not required during the activity,” Kayfish said.

Click to play video 'B.C. health officials report 299 new COVID-19 cases, 3 additional deaths' B.C. health officials report 299 new COVID-19 cases, 3 additional deaths
B.C. health officials report 299 new COVID-19 cases, 3 additional deaths – Nov 3, 2020

Some municipalities in Alberta, including Calgary and Edmonton, have gone a step further and made masks mandatory in all public indoor spaces, such as malls.

“We have taken a concerted strategy to really follow the advice of Bonnie Henry,” Kayfish said.

“We continue just to look to the province to give us the leadership and guidance, and also just take the steps that we think are the right actions at the right time.”

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Read more: Anti-maskers take a stand on Calgary’s face-covering bylaw at Chinook Centre

Global News canvassed a few residents in downtown Kelowna on Tuesday to see what the consensus is when it comes to having to wear masks in a growing number of places.

“It’s not really a big deal to just pop it over your face,” said Kelowna resident Mike Stanley. “And so if it protects people or yourself, we should be doing it.”

“If that’s what the rule is, and if it makes other people feel comfortable, then, yeah, I’m good with it,” said Jen Van Every.

The YMCA of Okanagan also announced on Tuesday that masks are required at all its facilities, which includes the H2O centre.

Click to play video 'Fraser Health declares outbreak at Chilliwack dance school' Fraser Health declares outbreak at Chilliwack dance school
Fraser Health declares outbreak at Chilliwack dance school – Nov 3, 2020

The City of Kelowna continues to receive between 10 and 15 complaint calls every week from people concerned about others not following health protocols. But so far, no fines have been issued.

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Since March 1, Kelowna City bylaw services has received 742 COVID-related complaints.

According to the city, a majority of those have been in regards to people not respecting social-distancing guidelines.

Read more: Coronavirus face masks are mandatory outdoors in Italy. Should Canada do the same?

But the volume of calls, said Kayfish, has tapered off in recent months.

“I think people are starting to get into what I would call a rhythm with how we’re all dealing with a pandemic. You know, people are used to wearing masks, maintaining their social distancing,” he said.

“And I think they’re thinking about things like having house parties and whether or not they should be having them, and how many people should be coming … those sorts of things.”