Edmontonians have to wear masks again following city council’s decision to reinstate its mask bylaw. Residents must wear masks in all public spaces and privately-owned businesses as COVID-19 cases rise across Alberta.
Edmonton’s per capita caseload now exceeds 200 cases per 100,000 population. For the mandate to be rescinded before the target end date of December 31, case counts must fall below 100 cases per 100,000 population.
Beginning on September 3, patrons at Edmonton restaurants, recreation centres, public transit, ride shares, and taxis have to wear masks after its city council passed the measure 9-2, reported CTV News. The provincial mask mandate on transit, taxis, and rides shares was set to expire on September 27.
Councillors Mike Nickel and Jon Dziadyk opposed the measure, despite the exemptions granted.
Nickel, the mayoral frontrunner for Edmonton's fall municipal election, said he is "utterly frustrated with city council" over the measure. "I have a council and mayor who think they are smarter than Dr. Deena Hinshaw."
"Without any provincial guidance, city hall has decided to reinstitute the mask bylaw, thinking they are smarter than your average virologist," said Nickel, who adds "it is the province's call" to impose public health mandates.
Dziadyk echoed Nickel's sentiment: "We rely on the provincial health authority for direction on matters of health and it has been clearly communicated that masks are no longer required for mandatory use. Although no one is stopping anyone from wearing a mask, based on the advice from doctors, Edmonton City Council enacted a mandate that was not recommended by those in a position to provide such advice."
Under the bylaw, those exercising in recreation centres, gyms and pools, as well as restaurant patrons eating or drinking are exempt, including children below two and those with mental or physical limitations.
"In accordance with the advice I received," said Dziadyk, "I did not support bringing masks back for all public indoor spaces." He adds that most people are not wearing masks in the shops in the ward he represents, indicating that residents are taking other measures to combat the virus.
Councillors voiced concerns of local businesses and residents on implementing a mask mandate without broader public support.
Nickel said the measure "will drive business out of the city" and that "people [will] choose to shop and get their services some place else."
"We opened too fast in Alberta," said Mayor Don Iveson. "Many people were concerned about that at the time. Exactly what was predicted at the time by the epidemiologists and the subject matter experts is happening."
Edmonton Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Jeffrey Sundquist welcomed the measure. "With cases increasing, the Edmonton Chamber supports measures that will keep people safe, businesses open and the economy growing," he said.
"That is now contributing to fear," added Iveson, "which ironically, is also bad for the economy."
"While public opinion is mixed on this topic," counters Dziadyk, "many people have contacted me to express their disappointment in Council bringing back the mask mandate."
"A number of constituents have explained that they now plan to shop in neighbouring municipalities and businesses are frustrated that the new rules will be hard to enforce," he said. "Businesses want off of the rollercoaster ride of constantly changing rules."
Iveson added: "Just as we were celebrating that we were going to be able to kick the doors open, everything was going to be fine. Now we’ve got workplaces and workers who are concerned about their safety on the frontlines again."
"We’ve got hospitals that are filling up again, and surgeries [are] being postponed," he said. The mayor said the measure should help bend the curve. It is "the right thing to do."