By Lethbridge Herald on November 30, 2020.
City council has extended its temporary Mandatory Face Covering and Masking Bylaw until Feb. 23, and will hold a public consultation to debate the wisdom of extending the bylaw into even later in the new year at the Feb. 11 Community Safety Standing Policy Committee meeting.
The motion passed 6-3 during Monday’s city council meeting with Councillors Joe Mauro, Blaine Hyggen and Ryan Parker opposed. All three men expressed support for public consultations on the issue, but were not in favour of extending the current bylaw, which was originally set to automatically expire on Dec. 31, until after such consultations were held.
Mayor Chris Spearman called the masking bylaw extension “prudent.” He said the current out-of-control increase of COVID-19 in the community, which topped 1,000 cases overall on Monday, should be a wake-up call for everyone.
“I think we need to do more,” Spearman stated. “We need to take personal responsibility. There are numerous reports of people not adhering to the health guidelines.
“People are thinking it won’t happen to me, and there are people exposing each other to various risks.
“I have had relatives who have tested positive who don’t live in the City of Lethbridge. It can happen to anybody. It is heartbreaking, and I know families who have had a family member die. I know people who have been under severe health stress, and they weren’t people in their 70s, 80s and 90s. This is a challenge. I think we need to deal with it as a community. Every death is a tragedy, and I know people who have had it who have not fully recovered. We all have to make sure we are doing our best.”
Deputy Mayor Rob Miyashiro sponsored the extension to the masking bylaw during Monday’s council meeting. While having absolutely no doubts about the ongoing public health necessity of masking, Miyashiro said the public consultation process at the Community Safety Standing Policy Committee on Feb. 11 should allow the space for those in favour as well as those opposed to a further extension of the bylaw to be heard at that time.
“The process we put in place today is a sound one,” he said. “We advertise. We have the public consultation in February. That is so committee can come back to council with its recommendations based on what they heard. Council then decides: ‘Do we want to pass that? Or do we want to continue the masking bylaw or not?’”
Miyashiro said City staff would have to devise a process in which everyone who wants to take part can be included, but would obviously limit those who wish to make submissions in person to a number which would respect provincial health restrictions on public gatherings.
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