Starting on Saturday, August 1, people in Edmonton are required to wear a face covering in indoor public places and public vehicles to lower the threat of COVID-19 spread in the city.
The new bylaw covers all indoor, publicly accessible spaces, including retail stores, entertainment venues, recreation centres, restaurants, vehicles for hire, as well as in facilities that are both owned and operated by the City of Edmonton.
And on Edmonton Transit buses and trains, too.
Mayor Don Iveson called the move a gesture of hope.
“It’s a very, very small step we can all commit to take as a shared norm in our community that happens to be enshrined in a bylaw that can help save lives and help protect our fragile economy,” said Mayor Iveson.
“That ought to be a hopeful message, and for many it will be. And others will interpret it how they interpret it based on what’s going on in the world. And there’s a lot going on. As elected officials, we’ve grappled with all of that complexity and heard that diversity of views from our public.”
The face-covering rule passed by a vote of 10-3 during a physically distanced meeting of Edmonton City Council on Wednesday, July 29.
Where, to whom bylaw doesn’t apply
There are important exemptions to know about.
The bylaw does not apply to schools, health care facilities and hospitals, child care facilities and employee-only spaces where physical barriers have been installed between the employee and patrons. When employees leave these areas, they will be required to wear face coverings, said Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin.
It also does not apply to areas within a business that are exclusively accessed by employees, like areas in a warehouse, for example.
Business operators can choose whether or not to deny service to those who don’t follow the bylaw and may also sell or provide masks to customers if they choose.
Download a poster for your business or service that communicates the new face covering requirement.
The people the bylaw doesn’t apply to includes those:
- under age 2
- who are unable to place, use, or remove a face covering without assistance
- with mental or physical concerns or limitations, or any other protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act that prevents them from wearing a face covering
- eating or drinking while seated in designated spaces or as part of a religious or spiritual ceremony
- engaging in water activities or physical exercise
- providing assistance or care to someone with a disability who would be hindered if the caregiver is wearing a face covering
- engaging in services that require removal of the face covering (e.g., having a passport photo taken or dental work).
Masks one part of healthy combination
A report provided to City Council stressed that face coverings help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, especially when combined with physical distancing, proper handwashing and staying home when sick.
The seal on a mask—on the sides, at the nose, on the bottom—is particularly important.
Here’s a short interview with Dr. Chris Sikora about what you need to know about masks. Sikora is the Alberta Health Services Medical Officer of Health for the Edmonton region.
Education, enforcement—and fatigue
At a news conference after the City Council meeting, the Mayor was asked by Global News reporter Vinesh Pratap why he thought public opinion does not unanimously favour face coverings to fight the coronavirus.
“As time has worn on and as fatigue has set in and as cynicism has come back, that tenuous sense of human connection and solidarity that got us through the first several months of this was replaced by, I think, mass anxiety about the future,” said Mayor Iveson.
“That’s why it’s important to continue to look to science rather than Facebook for the best advice of what to do. And for us to listen to the various arguments. And then to act in the public interest.”
The new bylaw stays in effect until December 31, 2020, unless changed by City Council.
The City said fining people for not wearing face coverings is a last resort. The effort will be first to make people aware of the bylaw and to educate them about the benefits of wearing face coverings.
Here are some Edmontonians sharing their own reasons for wearing face coverings. As one masked transit person who shared his opinion put it, “it just shows that you care, right? And just to have a trust between the whole community.”
Thanks for reading, thanks for keeping the community safe.