By Herald on August 10, 2020.
The City of Lethbridge is reminding residents face masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that, as of Friday, masks are now mandatory in public areas of all City-owned facilities.
“We have implemented the mandatory masking policy in all public spaces,” said City of Lethbridge general manager for Recreation and Culture Robin Harper. “Today (Friday) is the first day, and we are pleased to see all visitors have embraced the new requirements, and everybody is committed to working together to keep the community safe.”
Harper said the same masking requirements now apply to all City-owned recreation facilities, even those which are managed by outside partner agencies.
“The goal obviously is to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, and we are introducing mandatory face coverings at our facilities — we are hoping that will do that,” he said. “And we also know this is not going to go away in the short term. Making masks the new social norm will only help in the months ahead.”
Harper said while mandatory masking is in effect in City-owned facilities, the focus will be on community education rather than on enforcement while implementing it.
“We are not looking for enforcement,” he confirmed. “This is more an education of the public. It’s going to be an adjustment for people to remember to bring a mask or wear a mask at these public areas. That is why we have a limited supply of the disposable masks for people who visit public facilities who don’t have a mask with them. We are trying to educate the public as to why masks are important to protect our citizens and our staff.”
Harper said the expectation is people will procure and use their own face coverings or masks when entering a City-owned facility.
For some recreation facilities like ice arenas, pools or workout spaces, those coming into the facilities would be required to wear a mask until they actually move into the primary activity area, such as the gymnasium, ice sheet or swimming area, to begin engaging in exercise or sports. They would be required to put those masks on again as soon as they exit that primary activity area, Harper confirmed.
He added facility managers are responsible for ensuring participants use good physical distancing and hygiene practices while undertaking their sports or exercises inside.
“Those are conversations we have had with our operators such as the YMCA (for example),” he explained. “They have limitations in their spaces as far as occupancy, numbers and distancing according to Alberta Health. Those are the guidelines in those spaces they are following. There are distancing, there are cleaning requirements, there are maximum occupancy numbers, and they are expected to follow those in those spaces.”
Harper noted there are exceptions to the mandatory mask or face-covering rule.
Children under the age of two are not required to wear a mask; nor are those protected on the grounds noted under the Human Rights Act. Also exempted are people who are unable to use face coverings safely without assistance, and people drinking or eating in designated areas at a City-owned or operated public premises that offer food or beverage services. People engaging in an athletic or fitness activity, or anyone caregiving for, or accompanying, a person with a disability where wearing a face covering would hinder that care — those individuals are also exempted at this time.
On a related note, city council will be debating a temporary bylaw during Monday’s public meeting which would make masks or face coverings mandatory in all public spaces and public vehicles.
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