BANFF – Banff’s director of emergency management has stopped short of saying he supports making masks mandatory – but highly recommends their use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to questions at a council meeting on Monday (June 22), Silvio Adamo said the Town of Banff continues to encourage the use of masks to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in the tourist town, where there is currently one active case.
“It is happening … I’d love to see it more,” he said, noting he is encouraged by the number of people he saw wearing masks on the 100 and 200 blocks of Banff Avenue on the weekend.
“We will will continue to work collaboratively with all the agencies, particularly the health authority. If they do make the decision for certain mandatory requirements for masks in certain settings, we will absolutely be jumping on board.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends wearing a non-medical mask or face covering in public places, especially busy ones, when it’s difficult to maintain a physical distance of two metres from each other.
Last week, a group of Alberta doctors called on the provincial government to make wearing masks mandatory for all Albertans, but Premier Jason Kenney, who highly recommends wearing masks, was opposed to such heavy-handed measures.
Banff town councillor Peter Poole said he wants to praise the community for keeping the rate of spread of COVID-19 low.
“It’s been three months since we as a community embarked on this deep sense of shelter in place, deep hygiene and deep care for one another – and, in fact, it works,” he said.
“We really need to take time to praise our fellow residents because we’ve actually kept the rate of spread of this virus down dramatically. We’ve have done a really great job and we know that can work.”
Poole, however, questioned whether it was time to make masks mandatory in such places as the 100 and 200 blocks of Banff Avenue or on public transit, which is getting busier with each passing weekend, on top of existing education.
He said recent internationally-accredited studies show that wearing masks in public settings can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“We can say it really does work, along with hand-washing and other measures,” he said, noting some municipalities require their transit authorities to mandate mask use.
“If use of the downtown Banff Avenue space is so congested, should we be, either or both, having lots of information about the benefits of using a mask or requiring the use of a mask to enter the 100 and 200 block of Banff Avenue.”
The Town of Banff has handed out approximately 36,000 masks provided by the province of Alberta, including 2,000 for Roam transit riders in Banff.
The first phase of the Alberta government’s distribution of free non-medical masks has ended, with more than 14 million masks handed out at A&W, McDonald’s and Tim Hortons drive-thru restaurants across the province.
An additional six million masks have been, or will be, shared directly with municipalities, seniors organizations, Indigenous partners, places of worship and others to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
The government has paused the distribution of free non-medical masks at its three restaurant partners until the second phase in July, at which time another 20 million masks will be distributed via drive-thrus and other partners. Details will be announced in the next couple of weeks.
Adamo said the one COVID-19 positive case in Banff is currently in self-isolation.
“This is a reminder to all of us that we must remain diligent and follow a good COVID practices,” he said.
“As a broken record, I will repeat washing or sanitizing hands frequently, staying home when feeling ill and wearing a mask when there’s a chance you may not be able to maintain social distance is imperative.”