Edmonton city council decision to end mandatory mask requirement July 1 stalled, to be voted on Friday

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Masks may no longer be required in most Edmonton indoor public spaces as of July 1 if council approves the final reading of a proposed bylaw amendment at a special meeting Friday afternoon.

Edmonton city council voted 7-6 Tuesday on the first two readings of a bylaw amendment to end the mandatory mask requirement on July 1 in line with the province’s COVID-19 reopening plan, based on a recommendation from city officials. However, Ward 4 Coun. Aaron Paquette voted against considering the final reading on the same day, meaning it will have to return to a future council meeting.

A special council meeting was subsequently called for Friday afternoon so council didn’t have to wait until the next scheduled meeting day July 5, which would have been after the provincial changes. If the proposed amendment to end the mandatory mask requirement passes the final reading, the change would come into effect July 1.

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In an interview with Postmedia following the vote, Paquette said he voted against allowing the bylaw to pass because it will give councillors a bit more time to consider the decision and monitor the COVID-19 Delta variant. Paquette said it is possible one or more of his colleagues could change their mind come Friday and vote to extend the bylaw further. Mayor Don Iveson and councillors Michael Walters, Scott McKeen, Andrew Knack and Ben Henderson joined Paquette in voting against the proposed suspension of the bylaw.

The other option being considered was to deactivate the mask rule two weeks after the Edmonton Zone reaches 50 per cent of second dose vaccinations for eligible residents. The city said based on projections, it looks like this vaccination target would be reached by mid-July and then the bylaw could be deactivated two weeks later.

“It just gives us a few extra days for consideration, I think it’s not a bad thing,” Paquette said. “I think it’s best to err on the side of caution when it comes to people’s health, especially because children aren’t getting vaccinated right now and with the Delta variant, I’ve heard that is a serious concern. It’s just a practical move.”

If the final reading does pass on Friday, face coverings will no longer be required in retail stores, entertainment venues, recreation centres, restaurants and all other buildings that are accessible to the public as of July 1. But masks will still be required on the city’s transit system and vehicle-for-hire services, such as taxis or Uber, for the foreseeable future, as per a provincial rule announced by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw Tuesday.

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Even with the possible suspension of the mask rule, Corbould said the city is still encouraging the use of masks indoors. Mask rules for city employees who work indoors, such as at recreation centres, are still being developed. Corbould didn’t specifically say what the rules would be for those using city rec facilities and wasn’t made available for questions.

“We would strongly encourage the use of masks when people feel it’s appropriate to do so. I can guarantee that I plan to where a mask when I’m going from place to place in city hall,” Corbould said Tuesday, even if the mandatory mask requirement were to end. “We would certainly encourage the use of masks in all public places indoors and we would definitely support those who choose to wear masks and allow people to follow the not-mandatory mask wearing if they choose not to.”

If approved, the bylaw amendment would suspend the mandatory mask requirement in most indoor public spaces, but would be reinstated if the provincial government moves back to one of the first two stages in the reopening plan. Corbould said any mask order from Hinshaw, such as the one for transit and vehicle-for-hire services, would also reactivate the bylaw and supersede the city’s rules.

Edmonton’s mask rule was enacted by council on Aug. 1 prior to the provincial mask mandate coming into effect in December during the second wave. The bylaw hasn’t applied to buildings of provincial jurisdiction such as schools, hospitals, child-care facilities and health-care facilities. There has been a $100 fine associated with the rule and peace officers have issued 440 tickets since August.

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3 


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