By Herald on August 24, 2020.
A temporary mandatory face-covering and masking bylaw is now in effect in all indoor or enclosed public areas within the City of Lethbridge.
City council passed third and final reading of the bylaw by a vote of 6-3 during Monday’s council meeting. The bylaw comes into effect immediately and will remain active until at least the end of December, when an initial sunset clause kicks in unless the bylaw is extended by another vote of council.
Three additional amendments to the bylaw were debated by council before the final vote. Coun. Jeff Carlson proposed an amendment which clarified the definition of social distancing, and which included an exemption to the bylaw for any indoor space as long as social distancing was possible. The amendment was severed, with city council voting 6-3 in favour of including the definition, but ultimately voting down the exemption clause 7-2 because the city solicitor and city manager both felt the amendment was contrary to the intent of the temporary mandatory masking bylaw which requires full public participation. Councillors Carlson and Joe Mauro voted in favour.
Deputy Mayor Jeff Coffman then proposed another amendment which would exempt an individual leading a worship service from having to wear a mask as long as they could properly social distance at least two metres from other congregants. (This does not exempt congregants from wearing a mask). This amendment passed by a vote of 5-4 with Coun. Coffman, Mauro, Belinda Crowson, Mark Campbell and Carlson voting in favour.
The final amendment was proposed by Coun. Ryan Parker who sought to postpone the final vote on the masking bylaw pending a public meeting or hearing of some sort to examine the pros and cons of masking. This amendment was voted down by a vote of 7-2, with only Parker and Hyggen in favour.
After dealing with the amendments, council proceeded to debate and vote on the full bylaw. The majority of council voted in favour of enacting the temporary masking bylaw throughout the entire city, with only Parker, Hyggen and Mauro opposed.
After the vote Parker stated he would respect the will of council, but he still didn’t understand why with the low levels of active COVID-19 cases in Lethbridge (zero on Monday, according Alberta Health Services) this kind of mandatory bylaw was necessary. He felt making masks mandatory instead of voluntary would drive deeper divisions in the community over the issue.
“I am a little disappointed, but I also have to respect the decision of council,” he said. “Today, there are zero cases. And I think there is going to be some confusion, but hopefully in the community there is buy-in, and it becomes a normality.”
Coun. Rob Miyashiro, who sponsored the bylaw, thanked his colleagues for doing the right thing to protect the health and safety of citizens.
“One of the things a few weeks ago, Coun. Crowson talked about the nudge,” he said. “When you want someone to do something, you don’t use a sledge hammer — you do it in little nudges. Wearing the mask is one thing; it’s not a draconian thing; it’s not a horrible thing. It’s a very little thing people can do, and then make it normal. Even the stores are helping us with this. The big stores are saying, ‘Hey, wear a mask if you want to shop here.’”
Mayor Chris Spearman also applauded his colleagues for taking leadership in passing the temporary mandatory masking bylaw. He said with school children already required to wear masks to school and large stores like Walmart and Superstore following suit with customers, it was important for everyone in Lethbridge to set a good example for the health of others.
“We all need to do what we can as a community to keep each other safe,” he said. “When I wear a mask, I protect you. When you wear a mask, you protect me. It’s important we have a community that looks after each other, and we do the best we can keep our businesses open through the Christmas season. And to make sure we avoid a second wave. There is a flu season coming, and we don’t want to compound that with COVID. Everybody wearing masks is minimizing the spread of COVID, flu, and other related diseases.”
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Specifics on the bylaw can be found on the City’s website at https://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/Bylaws/Pages/Face-Covering-Bylaw.aspx