Council approves mandatory mask bylaw

Protesters gather outside Grande Prairie City Hall as city council meets to discuss a mandatory mask bylaw (Michael Lumsden, MyGrandePrairieNow.com staff)
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If there are 100 active cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the City and County of Grande Prairie, a mandatory mask bylaw will come into effect for the city. City of Grande Prairie councillors unanimously approved a mandatory face mask bylaw at its meeting Tuesday.

Bylaw C-1426 will mandate the use of face masks or coverings inside public buildings, with certain exceptions. It will be triggered into effect when the consolidated active case numbers of COVID-19 in both the City and County of Grande Prairie reached 100 cases or a relaunch status change by either municipality to “enhanced” as per the Government of Alberta.

The province classifies a region as under enhanced status when risk levels require enhanced public health measures to control the spread. Local context is considered.

Before the evening session of Grande Prairie city council, groups both for and against the mandatory mask bylaw congregated in front of city hall in the second protest in as many weeks about the issue. Grande Prairie Mayor Bill Given says despite the monumental amount of noise surrounding the discussions, both on social media and via more traditional channels, the decision is important as a proactive measure.

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“I think council is thankful for all the community dialogue leading up to today’s meeting, thankful to be able to establish a consensus and allow the bylaw to pass… and thankful now we’ve passed the bylaw we can get onto discussing other important issues in the community.”

Given says the biggest takeaway for residents in the short term is that the passing of the bylaw doesn’t require anyone to wear a mask immediately, and will only require masks to be worn in indoor public spaces when physical distancing via a screen, window, or other physical barrier is not possible. It wouldn’t apply in schools, hospitals and health care facilities, parts of public facilities only accessed by staff, and for drivers of public vehicles properly distanced or protected by a shield.

Exceptions are also made for children under two, children under five who can’t be persuaded to wear a mask, people who can’t wear one due to a medical or physical concern or who can’t safely put one on without help, and people who are protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act. Masks would also not be required when people are eating or drinking in a public place, working out, giving care to someone with a disability that could be hindered by their face being covered, getting a service that requires them to remove their mask, or in bed at a homeless shelter.

Given adds the unanimous passing of the bylaw wasn’t needed, but he was pleased to see council show a unified stance on the issue, regardless of their personal opinion on masks.

“I think it was very helpful, [and] I think it demonstrated that while there was a range of different priorities on council, that when it came to it, all members of council had the best interest of our community at heart.”

If the mandate were ever activated, the bylaw would be in effect until January 31, 2021, unless otherwise reviewed by city council, or the consolidated case numbers dropped below 100 active cases of COVID-19 for 14 consecutive days.

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