The Lethbridge mayor and chief of police are pleading with residents to do the right thing and not put others at risk as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city and across the province.
On Thursday, the City of Lethbridge sent out a statement saying both it and the Lethbridge Police Service are aware of public opinions for and against the mandatory face-covering rule.
The city says the health and safety of the community remains its number one concern.
“Many Albertans are suffering and are at risk of dying from this disease,” mayor Chris Spearman said.
“We need to do everything we can to stop that from happening.
“We also need to be very conscious about the capacity of our health care system,” he added.
Spearman says the provincial mask mandate is an important way residents can help limit the spread of COVID-19.
He goes on to say the city is working closely with its partners at LPS to continue educating the public, “recognizing that they may need to expand to enforcement measures if community safety is at risk.”
Spearman also said, as the Alberta government heightens restrictions, now is a time to be more vigilant, not less.
“It is clear we are [at] a very serious and dangerous point of this pandemic and I am pleading with everyone to be part of the solution. Be safe. Be kind. Be respectful.”
The same message is being echoed by Shahin Mehdizadeh, the chief of police for the Lethbridge Police Service. Mehdizadeh said the force is done educating those who flagrantly decide to disobey the face-covering mandate, and will start handing out tickets if necessary.
“We will take the appropriate enforcement actions when people in our community are put in harm’s way,” Mehdizadeh stated.
“Protestors and protest organizers who infringe on the rights of other citizens who go about their daily lives will need to be held accountable,” he went on to say.
Mehdizadeh says LPS respects and will defend the rights of citizens to express their views on issues, including the mandatory safety restrictions put in place by the province earlier this week.
He adds LPS’ preferred approach is to educate and seek voluntary compliance with the legal measures that have been put in place, however Mehdizadeh acknowledges the elevation in the nature of anti-mask rallies as of late.
The chief says police are aware of plans to hold an anti-mask rally at Park Place Mall this weekend, officers will monitor the situation and take the appropriate actions needed if plans for the protest do move forward.
“While there are monetary penalties for those who contravene the public health order, criminal charges including causing a disturbance may be considered if circumstances warrant,” Mehdizadeh said.
He adds Lethbridge police may look to work with bylaw officers to help administer tickets if necessary, in order to help ensure safety in possible confrontational situations with anti-maskers.
Spearman thanked all those who have been following the mask bylaw without any issues.
“I commend everyone who has taken this step to protect our community and others.”
Spearman added those who oppose the bylaw have a right to express their opinions, but do not have the right to put others in harm’s way.