Face coverings will continue to be mandatory in indoor public spaces in Lethbridge until at least Feb. 23, after city council extended the temporary bylaw on Monday.
Bylaw 6239 — the temporary mandatory face coverings bylaw — was put into effect on Aug. 24, and according to the bylaw was set to “be revoked after the first regularly scheduled council meeting following Dec. 31, 2020, unless it is extended by council resolution.”
That resolution was moved by Coun. Rob Miyashiro on Monday, and passed by council in a 6-3 vote.
“It is temporary, so every time we put a time limit on it, we have to revisit it,” he said.
Miyashiro was also the original mover of the bylaw back in August. He said it was important to extend the rule Monday after seeing numbers continuing to spike in Lethbridge, and across Alberta.
Council’s decision was made shortly after Alberta’s COVID-19 update on Monday, in which Lethbridge officially passed 1,000 total cases of the disease, including more than 200 listed as active.
“When we passed the masking bylaw, we had zero cases active in Lethbridge,” Miyashiro.
“People were like, ‘Why are you doing this?’ Well, this was exactly the reason why. So a few months later, at 200, the province-wide numbers at 1,700 a day,” he said.
Miyashiro’s motion also included public engagement in February, giving Lethbridge residents their first chance to have their voices heard on the topic.
The approved motion says: “Be it resolved council invite written and oral submissions from its residents to the community safety standing policy committee meeting of Feb. 11, 2021; and further, that the report of the community safety Standing policy committee be forwarded to the Feb. 23, 2021 council meeting.”
Miyashiro said decisions will have to be made surrounding what that engagement will look like; whether it be in-person submissions, written, virtual or a combination of formats.
“You can’t just open up the doors and say, ‘Fill up city hall and let’s talk,'” he said. “The process we put in place today is a sound one.
“We go to the standing policy committee, they develop their framework for what they want the public consultation to look like, we advertise, we have the public consultation in February.”
Miyashiro said he believes masking is a simple solution, but he’s sure those opposed will make their voices heard.
“Those will probably be the most vocal ones,” he said. “Everyone that’s in support of masks aren’t walking around going, ‘Wow, we really love masks. This is a great thing.’ They’re just wearing them.
“It’s the people that aren’t wearing masks that have this opposition — for whatever reason — to masks.”
The standing policy committee will then return to council with a recommendation based on what they heard, and council will decide whether or not to continue with the mask rules on Feb. 23.View link »