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Edmonton mask bylaw to remain in place: ‘We are in the middle of a pandemic’

Click to play video: 'Will Edmonton lift its mask bylaw when province does?' Will Edmonton lift its mask bylaw when province does?
WATCH (June 24): On Friday, Edmonton city council is holding a special meeting to decide what to do with the municipal face covering mandate when the province lifts restrictions on July 1. Sarah Ryan explains. – Jun 24, 2021

Edmonton city council unanimously voted Tuesday to amend its face-covering bylaw so that it remains in place for the foreseeable future.

The temporary mandatory face coverings bylaw requires anyone in a public space within the City of Edmonton to wear a face covering.

“This virus is not going away any time soon,” Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said.

Tuesday marked the first Emergency Advisory Meeting for Edmonton’s new city council. Dr. Chris Sikora, Alberta Health Services leader for the Edmonton zone, joined the meeting remotely and answered questions about the city’s COVID-19 response.

Much of the discussion centred around the city’s mandatory mask bylaw. When it was initially put in place, it was set to expire after Edmonton recorded 10 days straight of fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 population.

Based on those metrics, the bylaw would have soon expired.

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“Today’s decision allows that bylaw to continue,” Sohi said, “so we can continue to protect each other.”

Read more: Edmonton amends COVID-19 mask bylaw to clarify rules for performances, worship settings

Councillors debated moving that to 28 days straight, setting an expiry date and also removing any numerical triggers altogether. Council voted on the latter option.

Essentially, the bylaw would remain in place until council — advised by health officials, administration and other factors in Edmonton and the context — decides to lift it.

“It’s important to remind Edmontonians that this fight isn’t over,” City Manager Andre Corbould said. “By extending the temporary mandatory face coverings bylaw, council has ensured that one of our best tools for protection against the spread of the virus remains in place.”

In December, council will meet again to discuss whether potential future “triggers” should be added, for instance:

  • 28 days at rates below 100/100,000 in Edmonton zone;
  • Two weeks after 80 per cent of children 5-11 have been fully vaccinated;
  • ICU capacity below 50 per cent and falling;
  • Provincial health order for masking has been rescinded;
  • There is monthly reporting to council.

“I think there should be multiple triggers,” Coun. Andrew Knack said. “We are in the middle of a pandemic.”

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Sohi acknowledged the work of the previous council, “in areas where municipalities could provide leadership.”

“I think we need to continue to demonstrate that kind of leadership. We are not out of this pandemic yet.”

Click to play video: 'Mandatory masking, alcohol curfew returning across Alberta this weekend' Mandatory masking, alcohol curfew returning across Alberta this weekend
Mandatory masking, alcohol curfew returning across Alberta this weekend – Sep 3, 2021

On Sept. 4, the province reinstated its indoor mask bylaw, which meant face coverings are mandatory in all public spaces and workplaces, except when there are two metres of space or barriers in place.

The provincial face-covering order remains in place.

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Read more: Alberta introduces new COVID-19 measures, offers $100 incentive to increase vaccine numbers

In response to the vaccine mandate for city staff, councillors heard 94 per cent of city employees are fully or partially vaccinated as of Nov. 1, 660 employees have opted to use the rapid test option, 41 (out of 13,000) have not complied with the mandate and have been placed on leave without pay, and 15 employees were approved for medical exemptions.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Majority of City of Edmonton employees vaccinated, outliers cause service disruptions for ETS' COVID-19: Majority of City of Edmonton employees vaccinated, outliers cause service disruptions for ETS
COVID-19: Majority of City of Edmonton employees vaccinated, outliers cause service disruptions for ETS – Oct 28, 2021

As of Nov. 7, there have been 102,182 COVID-19 cases in the Edmonton zone. As of Monday, there were 1,421 active cases, 202 COVID-19 hospitalizations, including 71 ICU cases.

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A total 1,296 people have died in Edmonton due to the coronavirus.

Edmonton’s R value (reproductive value) was 0.9 and has been declining recently.

City councillors heard 85.3 per cent of eligible Edmontonians are vaccinated.

When it comes to City of Edmonton worksites, capacity will be limited to 33 per cent and a return to in-person work is tentatively set for Jan. 4, 2022, with many people still working remotely.

Read more: Edmonton transit to temporarily reduce bus frequency due to driver COVID-19 vaccination rates

Ridership on Edmonton Transit has declined, council heard. As a result of operator vaccination rates, the frequency for bus service is down about three per cent until staffing gets back to normal.

Click to play video: 'Should face masks still be required after the pandemic ends?' Should face masks still be required after the pandemic ends?
Should face masks still be required after the pandemic ends? – Oct 26, 2021

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