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Mayor Given urges community to work together to stop COVID-19 spread

Grande Prairie Mayor Bill Given is hopeful that the mandated face-covering bylaw will be a wake-up call to those who may not have taken the threat of COVID-19 as seriously as others.

“I know that there are some noisy voices on social media, but I have a lot of faith in our community that the vast majority will comply without even needing to be asked,” he says. “Should there be a situation where someone who wilfully chooses not to comply without meeting any of the requirements for an exception, we do have the ability to levy a fine.”

The city says enforcement services will be taking an education first approach to encourage compliance, but if a resident or business remains uncompliant, the penalty for failure to wear a face-covering/mask when required is $100 and $200 for failure to display prescribed signage.

However, Given says the evidence coming out of similar mask bylaws in cities like Edmonton and Calgary point to very few fines being handed out, which only cements his faith in the residents in the Swan City doing their part.

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The bylaw was triggered Monday when the combined active case count for the City and County of Grande Prairie reached higher than 100. Bylaw C-1426 mandates the use of face masks or coverings inside public buildings, with certain exceptions.

It requires masks to be worn in indoor public spaces when physical distancing via a screen, window, or other physical barrier is not possible. It doesn’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.

Businesses are now also required to display a sign created by the city in a location that is visible to people entering the building or vehicle. Given says they will be working closely with community partners to make the transition as smooth as possible for business owners.

“The city is partnering with the Downtown Association to make sure there is ability there, and printed posters will be available for pick up at city hall, Centre 2000, at the Downtown Association offices and the City Service Centre starting October 29th.”

Face coverings will be required 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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