With the COVID-19 pandemic having a resurgence in Alberta as of late, we strongly encourage Canmore council to adopt a mandatory mask bylaw at their special meeting on Aug. 4.
The facts are simple and point to the implementation of this temporary measure for the safety and well-being of Canmore’s residents and economy. The number of infections is rising in all regions of Alberta, but particularly in Calgary; and Alberta currently has the highest new infection rate per capita in Canada.
As we’ve seen this summer, the Bow Valley is a favourite place for Albertans to visit while they cannot recreate further abroad. This puts tremendous pressure on our community, especially front-line staff, to avoid infection that could overwhelm our health resources.
Without further measures to ensure safety with businesses now open, a second lockdown is a real possibility if numbers continue to rise.
Fortunately, both science and public opinion support a decision to implement mandatory masks in all indoor public spaces. Top health experts point to airborne virus particles as the primary method of transmitting this highly contagious and extremely dangerous illness, and social distancing and face masks are the primary tactics for mitigating transmission.
Recent national polls suggest Canadians strongly support mandatory mask regulations. Leger found two-thirds of Canadians are supportive; Ipsos/Global News found 79 per cent of Canadians strongly or somewhat support municipalities imposing mandatory mask rules; and Abacus Data found 86 per cent of Canadians would support or adhere to mandatory mask orders.
Not surprisingly, in Alberta we see Edmonton, Calgary and Banff instituting some form of mandatory mask measures in their municipalities; and many other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world are moving to do likewise.
Difficulty of enforcement has been raised by some to question proceeding with a mandatory mask bylaw. This bylaw is no more difficult to enforce than many other difficult-to-enforce-but-absolutely-necessary bylaws such as prohibition of littering, keeping dogs on leashes, and vehicle noise bylaws to name a few.
Like others, this bylaw will be enforced through complaint followup and targeted patrols of problem areas. Placing a big fine on non-compliance may also be persuasive. We expect, as experienced in other jurisdictions in Canada where masks have been made mandatory, that the vast majority of people will comply.
Perhaps a more important consideration than enforcement in this instance is what simply having a bylaw will do. It will set clear parameters of expected behaviour, which will support business owners in keeping their staff and customers safe.
It will give comfort to those who want to wear masks, but feel like they don't want to stand out. For those living with high risk factors, it will greatly reduce the anxiety of going to public places.
Also, and crucially important, it removes the almost palpable tension that exists when there is no clear direction as to what the rules are.
We must do all we can to limit infection while keeping our community open for business so that whatever happens we will not be left saying, “If only we had ..."
Janet and Sean Krausert,