Masks will be mandatory in all indoor spaces in Edmonton this Friday

Masks or face coverings are once again mandatory in all indoor public spaces in Edmonton. Kim Smith speaks with city councillor Andrew Knack about the decision to bring back some COVID-19 restrictions.

Masks or face coverings will once again be mandatory in all indoor public spaces in Edmonton this Friday.

Council voted to reinstate its face coverings bylaw Monday afternoon in a vote of 9-2. Councillors Mike Nickel and Jon Dziadyk voted against the motion.

“Medical experts have made it clear that we are in the fourth wave of COVID-19 and I applaud city council for making this decision to help keep Edmontonians safe,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

“I urge Edmontonians to be respectful of one another and remember that as of Friday, it will be required to wear masks in all indoor spaces.”

The city said at Commonwealth Stadium, masks will not be required while seated in the outdoor seating bowl, but the bylaw requires masks to be work in all indoor spaces.

The vote to reinstate masks city-wide came following discussion that started when city administration recommended earlier Monday that the city temporarily reactive its face-covering bylaw for public transit, rideshare and vehicles-for-hire.

The city said the city-wide bylaw will now remain in place until Dec. 31, 2021 or until cases fall below 100 per 100,000 for a minimum of 10 straight days.

Currently, there are 205.5 active cases per 100,000 in Edmonton. As of the latest data released Friday, there were 2,133 active cases of COVID-19 in Edmonton.

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Infectious disease expert Dr. Craig Jenne said reinstating the mask mandate was the right move.

“We don’t want to be in the situation where we need to (reinstate a mask mandate), but the fact that we have so many unvaccinated people in the province, we are seeing these daily case numbers rise, and really, part of the calculation was an expectation that numbers of new cases could rise without hospitalizations following and unfortunately, we’ve not seen that,” Jenne explained.

“It seems as though we do not have enough vaccinated people in the province for that full disconnect.

“We’re seeing increasing numbers of virus cases, increasing hospitalization, increasing ICU and really limiting our hospital capacity. So something has to change.

“The virus itself is not going to get less infectious so our behaviour has to change and masking is probably the simplest thing we can do to begin to slow that curve.”

There are some exceptions to the mandate, which include:

  • persons under the age of 2
  • persons who are unable to place, use, or remove a face covering without assistance
  • persons unable to wear a face covering due to a mental or physical concern or limitation, or protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act
  • persons consuming food or drink in designated seating areas or as part of religious or spiritual ceremony
  • persons engaged in water activities or physical exercise
  • persons providing care or assistance to a person with a disability where a face covering would hinder that caregiving or assistance
  • persons engaging in services that require the temporary removal of a face covering

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Corbould said the city conducted a survey asking about mask use on the transit system.

Of 6,000 respondents, Corbould said 4,842 said they have used transit in the last three months or were considering it before the end of the year.

When asked if they would feel safer if masks were mandatory on transit until at least the end of 2021, Corbould said 79 per cent of respondents answered yes. Sixteen per cent said no and four per cent were unsure.

Current rules in place by Alberta Health mandate face coverings on public transit, including ride-share vehicles, taxis, motor coaches and shuttles. That province-wide mandate is set to be lifted on Sept. 27, at which time individuals can choose to continue wearing masks, but they will not be mandatory.

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Without the provincial mandate in place, businesses and municipalities have the authority to set their own mandatory mask rules.

Face coverings will be mandatory for all City of Edmonton employees in indoor city facilities and vehicles starting Tuesday, Corbould explained.

Edmonton ended its face coverings bylaw on July 1, the same day Alberta moved into Step 3 of reopening and the province-wide mask mandate was lifted.

By Sept. 10, Corbould said all City of Edmonton employees will have to declare whether they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

In addition, employees who have been working from home will return to work on Sept. 20. Office occupancy will average around 50 per cent on any given day, Corbould explained, while allowing for distancing. Some employees will have hybrid work arrangements.

With files from Sarah Ryan, Global News.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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