Alberta Mirror

Friday, September 29, 2023

Edmonton city council denies requiring masks at recreation centers


Key takeaways: 

  • Public transit users, though, ought to persist masking up.
  • The region still needs masks on public transit but will raise the order as part of Step 3 in removing COVID-19 precautions.

Edmontonians utilizing city facilities such as recreation centers will not have to wear masks, but transit users do; the city council chose Tuesday. 

Councilors gave a bylaw mandating those taking a bus, LRT, or waiting at transit stations to cover their faces, aligning with the existing regional demand.

The region still needs people over 12 years old to wear masks on public transit or while attending facilities operated by Alberta Health Services and continuing care centers.

The Temporary Transit Facilities Face Mask bylaw lets municipal peace officers implement the order instead of leaving it to the police or local health authorities.

Council voted 9 to 4 favor masking on transit, with Sarah Hamilton, Jennifer Rice, Karen Principe, and Erin Rutherford voting against. 

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Emotional effect

Edmonton and Calgary passed their own mask bylaws in August 2020 — months before the province introduced its public health order requiring masks

During the meeting, city manager Andre Corbould told the council fewer individuals are wearing masks, almost 30 percent at city recreation centers. 

He expected front-line staff to get pushback from people denying to wear them if the city made them compulsory. 

“I am concerned regarding emotional effect,” Corbould said. “We have young people at the front doors, and I stress regarding them taking the brunt of verbal abuse. We had seen it creep in only a bit before the bylaw was abolished.”

The majority of the council agreed ordering masks at city facilities would be demanding for front-line staff faced with asking people to yield. 

Coun. Aaron Paquette said he thinks wearing masks is the correct choice but doesn’t think front-line workers should take the brunt of enforcing it.

“I think that required masking is likely the safest way to go because it’s an added tool,” he stated. “I have my idea, but I have to go past my viewpoint here.”

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