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Banff passes bylaw to mandate masks to prevent spread of COVID-19

“I have no doubt in my mind that this is the right thing to do,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen.
20200725 Banff Avenue 0153
Hundreds of people walk along Banff Avenue on Saturday (July 25). The majority of people were not wearing masks. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO⁠

BANFF – Banff council has passed a bylaw mandating the use of masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Beginning Friday (July 31), masks must be worn outside in the 100 and 200 blocks of the Banff Avenue pedestrian zone, publicly accessible buildings such as grocery stores, retail shops, restaurants and hotels, as well as public vehicles such as taxis. Schools are not included in this bylaw.

Mayor Karen Sorensen said she’s disappointed the Alberta government didn't mandate masks province-wide, leaving it to communities to keep their residents safe, and in Banff’s case, visitors too.

“I have no doubt in my mind that this is the right thing to do,” she said during a council meeting Monday (July 27).

Town Manager Kelly Gibson said current evidence indicates that maintaining physical distancing of at least two metres, proper hand hygiene, and coughing and sneezing etiquette are the most effective strategies for decreasing the transmission of COVID-19 in a community. 

“However, increasing evidence indicates that wearing a mask is also an important added measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission,” he said.

Local businesses will not be expected to enforce this bylaw by refusing service, or forcing individuals to wear masks while in their establishments. 

However, the bylaw does require businesses to post signage near the entrance of the establishment, that is clearly visible, indicating that wearing a mask, or face covering, is mandatory.

It is believed that Banff is the first municipality in Canada that has mandated wearing masks outside - in this case, the downtown pedestrian zone which was created by closing the main street to vehicles to give pedestrians more space to social distance.

The Town of Banff will focus initially on education of the new bylaw, but those not wearing masks could be fined $150. Council will also review the bylaw and effectiveness in every subsequent council meeting, and may make adjustments as needed.

Canmore council plans to call a special meeting of council in the first week of August to discuss and debate a mandatory mask bylaw.

As of Monday (July 27), Banff has six active cases of COVID-19. There are now 1,430 active cases throughout Alberta.

–More to come.


About the Author: Cathy Ellis

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