NDP calls for mandatory masks for all Alberta regions on province’s enhanced list

A woman wears a face mask while shopping. Getty Images

The Alberta NDP is calling on the UCP government to make masks mandatory in all indoor public spaces for all regions on the province’s enhanced measures list.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 93 of Alberta’s 142 regions were on the province’s enhanced list, which means additional measures are in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Read more: CDC now says face masks can protect wearer from coronavirus

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said while many areas do have mandatory mask bylaws in place, several do not, pointing to areas such as Medicine Hat, Brooks, Drumheller and Cold Lake.

“The number one way we can protect the most vulnerable is to control community spread,” Notley said. “Rural areas and smaller communities are at higher risk of seeing their hospitals and continuing care centres overwhelmed and their economies hurt if we don’t get COVID-19 cases under control.

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Notley stressed that more must be done to reverse the current trend of increasing cases in order to get through the second wave.

“We’re behind here, as we are on many fronts, and this is one where we should do everything we can to catch up,” Notley said.

“It’s a simple, common sense solution that we can do immediately to bend the curve and keep people safe.”

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Masks or face coverings are mandatory in public indoor spaces and vehicles in several municipalities across the province. However, Premier Jason Kenney has stopped short of mandating them province-wide, leaving it up to individual municipalities to implement bylaws if they choose.

Read more: COVID-19: Here’s where you have to wear a mask in Alberta

The province strongly recommends masks be worn in all indoor workplaces, except when alone in an office or cubicle safely distanced from others, or an appropriate barrier is in place in all communities on the enhanced measures list.

“This UCP government has already gone out of their way to undermine health care in rural and remote parts of Alberta. I’m very concerned that if we don’t reduce cases quickly, these centres will be completely overrun,” Notley said. “At the end of the day, it’s a fairly simple thing we can do. Masks reduce community spread and don’t hurt the economy.

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“We’re not talking about a province-wide policy here. But we have a list of regions that are at higher risk and we think it makes sense that there be a consistent rule for all those on that list.”

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Saskatchewan moved Tuesday to expand its mask mandate to cover the entire province. The expanded mandate comes into effect this Thursday and will be in place until at least Dec. 17.

“COVID-19 is now present in every part of the province and you should wear a mask in every part of the province,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday.

Read more: Saskatchewan brings in province-wide mask mandate, limits gatherings to 5

In a response Thursday, Alberta Health spokesperson Zoë Cooper said no single strategy can control the pandemic.

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“It requires all of us to follow all of the public health measures in place. Wearing a non-medical mask is one of the tools we have to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and masks alone are not enough to stop the spread of COVID-19. Physical distancing is crucial to continuing to limit the spread of the virus,” Cooper said in a statement.

“We continue to watch the data in Alberta closely and will consider if adjustments to public health measures are needed.”

More information on the province’s current mask guidance can be found on Alberta Health’s website.

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