July 12th, 2024

City repeals mask bylaw effective July 1


By Herald on June 29, 2021.

Councillor Blaine Hyggen, alongside Councillor Ryan Parker, displays a chart “prop” to show vaccine effectiveness in the region Tuesday at city hall before council repealed the Temporary Mandatory Face Covering Bylaw. Herald photo by Tim Kalinowski

Tim Kalinowski – Lethbridge Herald

After an emotionally charged session which had a little bit of everything in terms of political drama, city council has repealed its local Temporary Mandatory Face Covering Bylaw as of July 1.

The issue pretty much dominated the entirety of Tuesday’s meeting, which started with a small group of anti-masking and anti-vaccine protestors outside city hall, featured impassioned speeches on the issue, included procedural challenges on the use of props by councillors, and elicited non-committal responses from local public health officials on the value of the local masking bylaw. 

All culminating in the decision to unanimously pass first, second and third readings of the repealing bylaw in one meeting.

Council kicked off its deliberations on the masking bylaw with a presentation from Dr. Mila Luchak, a medical officer of health from the South Zone of Alberta Health Services.

Councillors repeatedly attempted to gain some definitive answer as to whether AHS would endorse the removal of the bylaw or not. Luchak repeatedly told councillors that masks were an important tool in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic alongside other things like social distancing and good hand hygiene, but vaccination rates were more important at this time in Alberta Health Service’s considerations. She admitted under questioning from Coun. Belinda Crowson that medical opinion is not settled on what would be considered the most ideal levels to reach population immunity from COVID-19, but she confirmed in the City of Lethbridge over 50 per cent of eligible people have gotten their second dose of vaccine and about 80 per cent of seniors in particular.

“There is not a lot of great data so far,” she responded to Crowson, “but studies are currently in the works to determine what is that population immunity or vaccine immunity number that needs to be achieved in order to protect a lot of our vulnerable population. That data is something that has been looked into globally and continues to be.”

Local respiratory specialist and critical care doctor Dr. Eric Wilde, who has worked with local COVID patients in the ICU at Chinook Regional Hospital for much of the last year, co-signed and submitted a letter with other critical care specialists Dr. P.L. Oviatt, Dr. Josh Henkelman, and Dr. Kurt L. Olson supporting the repeal of the masking bylaw.

Under questioning from councillors, Wilde and Oviatt were presented with an oversized blowup of a chart made by Coun. Blaine Hyggen showing the relationship between the high rate of vaccination in Alberta and the dramatic reduction of instances of COVID patients in ICU in the past few months to illustrate the points in the doctors’ letter. Hyggen was challenged on this use of a “prop” by Coun. Rob Miyashiro, but Miyashiro was informed by the City Clerk city council has never created a procedure around the use of such props in public meetings.

Wilde told councillors given how few cases he is dealing with in the local ICU these days, (only one since June 21 for an individual with severe immunity challenges), he had confidence in the provincial epidemiologists’ analysis of the situation, who felt it was fine to remove the provincial masking order at this time. Vaccination, in effect, is working as hoped to reduce severe cases of the disease, he suggested.

“I think the province is being very cautious with it,” Wilde said, “and I think we should be more united with the way we approach this instead of having little pockets of resistance here and there throughout the province. I think AHS is erring on the side of caution so there didn’t seem a lot of reason to me why we (in Lethbridge) wouldn’t be following the provincial mandate.

“I am not anti-mask,” Wilde emphasized to reporters later. “I think they have served us well. But it is so fortunate we were able to get incredible vaccines that have helped us get through this moment.”

A key turning point in the debate was an impassioned speech from Coun. Jeffrey Coffman. Coffman said he would support a repeal of the masking bylaw for the sake of the greater unity of the community, but asked that all sides be kind to one another whatever side of the debate they might be on.

“What I would ask is you take the time to care for each other,” said Coffman, addressing the citizens of Lethbridge directly in his remarks. “Because this anger is driving us in different directions. If you don’t like a mask; that’s fine. Go forth. Celebrate. But if you see somebody with a mask be respectful. In fact, probably just open a door for them. Don’t say anything at all. Smile, because we can see your smile. Be polite.

“Just acknowledge that as much as you have the freedom to not wear masks, somebody who chooses to wear a mask or has to wear a mask because they are compromised, they have comorbidities, they are going through chemo treatment, just acknowledge they have that choice as well,” he added. “And if you choose to wear a mask, at the same time don’t belittle the people who choose not to.”

Coun. Ryan Parker co-sponsored the motion with Coun. Blaine Hyggen. He thanked his colleagues for their unanimous support of the repealing bylaw.

“I think it is important we got this done before July 1 came around,” he said. “I was scared this would have to occur on July 13. This (decision) creates no angst, no confusion throughout our whole city, and it gives people an opportunity to move forward. We still have to be cautious, but we can move forward. The province has been a leader on this. They set a date. So it gave us an opportunity to cross our t’s and dot our i’s. I think it would have created a lot of confusion if our existing bylaw would have stayed in place (until the 13th).”

Mayor Chris Spearman agreed that avoiding chaos, confusion and confrontation was the motivation for his vote on the issue.

“Even though we have misgivings personally about not using masks and not protecting others when they could, in the end, it is very difficult to enforce when you have a divided community,” stated Spearman.

Spearman also acknowledged what Dr. Luchak and Dr. Wilde told council earlier in the day about encouraging vaccination as the new priority of Alberta Health Services.

“Maybe we have to focus on a different message (as council),” said Spearman: “To encourage people to get their vaccinations and become fully vaccinated. I think in Lethbridge about 75 per cent of the eligible recipients have received their first shot. The number is considerably lower for  the second. And in the areas around us, it is concerning the levels of vaccination are considerably lower than in the city.”

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h2ofield

No one cares for your bullsh*t scam.

This Red Neck Has No Neck

I’d like to see Hyggens, Mauro and Parker work as hard to promote vaccinations as they have worked to challenge masking mandates. It is especially important to get vaccination rates up in the communities surrounding Lethbridge before the more virulent strains gain stronger footholds. The more people hesitate the greater the chances of additional mutations.

biff

alberta bob must know what many do not: that vaccinations prevent covid from mutating. what is very curious is how a virus, “novel”, no less, can somehow manage to mutate so often already.
as for pushing people to get vaxed, concern about the potential for their respective long term effects remains. it makes me wonder why the approach has been to vaccinate virtually everyone – including kids! – rather than proceed with caution and due care, and focus primarily on vaxing just those deemed most at risk of serious covid complications.
as it stands, a year and a half along, and worldwide, a minuscule of the planet’s population has died due to covid…and no doubt, death certificates deemed due to covid have been liberal.
as for the removal of masks, i suspect there will be a lot of people breathing easier. what we likely will expect is the return of cold and flu seasons
meanwhile, the sheep sleep while the vax passport comes to be. all this time, most countries never stopped people from flying to and fro, spreading the dreaded virus (indeed, the only way it gets to us is with thanks to int’l flyers); but now, we are going to accept exclusivity being heaped on the right to int’l travel. the backwardness of this – the sheer gall – is mind blowing. baaaa!

This Red Neck Has No Neck

Sorry, biff, I didn’t say that one of the vaccines will prevent SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to mutate. Rather, the more people in a given population who are vaccinated the less widespread the virus will be in that population. Fewer infections means fewer replications which lowers the probability of a nasty mutation.

biff

thank you for helping me to better understand your thoughts on this. i also appreciate that you care for others.

Dennis Bremner

This is another product of being Socially Acceptable and Politically Correct. The new group in charge now finds it offensive if sheep suddenly do not want to play the game any longer. I am vaccinated and I wear a mask but the idiocy of compelling a person to wear a mask that was not designed to stop COVID nor even meet the minimum of efficiencies is nothing more than “the herd of Social Acceptability” attempting to pretend they know what they are doing.
Social Acceptance has brought out the idiots among us. People of “Higher Learning” who under normal conditions recognized there stupidity, now believe their shingle supersedes their stupidity, and it is license to suddenly bestow among the masses the brilliance they don’t have! It truly has become a joke

Last edited 3 years ago by Dennis Bremner
biff

dennis, if we do not agree 100% on your point here, we are close. i have said this before: if our “leaders” – health and political alike – are this woeful the world over, we are surely doomed. you note masks: after all this time…a year and a half…and still we never got flooded with real masks, nor a real/standardised masking law. one would think that would have been a very first line of defence. i suppose mass producing n95 and the like is beyond modern technology. i suppose stopping int’l flights is beyond the scope of govt interventions, but closing people’s businesses and vax passporting to come and stopping people from gathering and coming to coerce people to get vaxed (can’t travel without; win a lottery if you do…) is deemed legit enough. ahh, don’t get me going…again 🙂
what would the system do if almost no one showed up to vote next time around? the system would not then be legitimised by us suckers, and rightly so.