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Grande Prairie residents rally to voice opinions on potential mask mandate

As Grande Prairie city council discusses implementing a bylaw mandating the wearing of masks while inside public buildings, protestors both for and against a mandate rallied to make their voices heard at Centre 2000 on Monday morning. Estimates peg attendance between the two protests between 130 and 150 people.

Construction industry worker Matt Long, who is against any potential bylaw, says he believes published science does not support mandating masks, and it would be an invasion upon Canadians’ civil rights.

“I think it’s all done out of fear and it’s all optics,” he says. “I think if people weren’t wearing masks, people would actually forget there’s a virus out there.”

Long adds he believes a potential mandate would be one step closer to also mandating vaccines, something to which he is also opposed.

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“People should have a choice [of] whether to take vaccines. I obviously won’t, my family won’t, none of my kids take vaccines and they’re the healthiest kids on the block,” he says. “I believe God created us perfect and we don’t need anything beyond how he created us.”

Onyema Nwalegu, a medical laboratory scientist with Alberta Health Services, agrees that a lot of the science suggesting masks help to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is “bogus.”

“I see no reason why people who are not sick should be made to put on masks,” he says. “Let’s get back to what the WHO told us when this coronavirus issue started. They said that healthy people do not need to wear a mask.”

Nwalegu argues although masks are adept at filtering out bacteria, viral cultures are much smaller and could easily pass through filters relatively unhindered.

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, COVID-19 is spread through contact with liquid droplets that contain viral cultures. Such droplets are spread from the mouth or nose, and the virus can enter the body through the eyes, nose, or throat. The virus can also be spread by touching objects in which droplets have been left on the surfaces. Masks have been designed with this in mind and when properly worn can catch water and spittle droplets.

Opposite those who gathered to voice opposition to a potential bylaw mandating masks in public buildings, pro-mask protesters wield signs calling for sympathy in favour of protecting themselves and those who may be immunocompromised (John Watson, MyGrandePrairieNow Staff)

Bailey Cochrane, a lab technician at the QEII hospital, says a large source of confusion and controversy surrounding the use of masks stems from a surplus of easy to access, yet inaccurate information.

“People are so quick to look on Facebook for ‘factual’ evidence as opposed to looking on Google Scholar, or picking up a textbook, or asking someone in the profession,” she says.

“Some people just want the choice but you can hurt other people by choosing not to wear a mask,” adds Bachelor of Science in Nursing student, Emma MacDougall.

MacDougall notes a large concern to the effectiveness of mask use relies on a person properly wearing it over their mouth and nose.

“I see a lot of people not covering their noses and that defeats the entire purpose,” she says. “You might as well not wear a mask if you’re not going to cover your nose, if you’re just going to put it on your chin or if you’re going to just keep touching your mask and face.”

Grande Prairie City Council began discussions surrounding a potential mandatory mask bylaw later Monday morning.

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