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Coaldale council rejects face mask bylaw

Posted on November 3, 2020 by Sunny South News

By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News

Coaldale town council has declined to implement a face mask bylaw.

During their regular Oct. 26 meeting, council had discussed the possibility of implementing a temporary face maskbylaw.

Council had first discussed implementing a mask bylaw during theirSept. 14 meeting, but did not wish to pursue it at thattime. It was revisited during their regularOct. 13 meeting, when council was reviewingSept. 17 Emergency Advisory Committee minutes, and they passed a motion to direct the Emergency Advisory Committee to come back to the next meeting onOct. 26, 2020, with recommendations and/or a proposed Mask WearingBylaw. This was following a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in the region, along with the region being placed on a provincial watchlist.

? Turn to SURVEY, 2 After theOct. 13 meeting,coun. Briane Simpson spoke with the Coaldale and District Chamber of Commerce during their Speaker Series meeting, and they volunteered to canvas their members for their opinions onit. Simpson also asked Coaldale citizens their views on the topic in a post on her councillor Facebookpage.

The chamber’s survey, which was presented at the council meeting, showed that77.4 per cent of respondents preferred that a mask bylaw not be adopted in Coaldale at this time, generally preferring that individual businesses be allowed to make that decision forthemselves.

Simpson’s informal Facebook poll yielded similarresults. In her report to council, Simpson stated she received 353 respondents, with 304 respondents in favour of the town remaining without a maskbylaw. Simpson stressed that her poll was for informational purposes only, and she cannot guarantee that everyone who voted were Coaldale residents, and some did indicateotherwise. She also received responses through direct message and email, which received by all of council, and there was 21 shares of the post, and she couldn’t view all of the shares and did not know how they were respondedto.

Of the remaining votes to her post, 31 were in favour of a mask bylaw and 17 who were in favour of an awareness campaign from thetown.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise globally – with nearly 5,000 active cases reported in Alberta last week, more than 1,000 cases cases higher than the peak of cases reported during lockdown in the spring – the World Health Organization, Chief Public Health Officer for Canada, and the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta have recommended the wearing of facemasks.

According to the report presented to council, the Emergency Advisory Committee held a special meeting to review a bylaw they could present to council, but were split as to whether to recommend it tocouncil.

“There was a number of helpful insights that emerged regardless of the lack of consensus on whether to recommend the passing of the bylaw,” said Kalen Hastings, CAO for thetown. “The committee in general wants to ensure the public is safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, however there was not consensus that implementing a mandatory masking bylaw is the most effective method to ensure publicsafety.”

Council decide to perform all three readings of the bylaw, direct administration to make changes or decline the approval of thebylaw. There was no recommended motion listed in thereport.Coun. Doreen Lloyd noted that it was “resounding” that the citizens of Coaldale did not want a mask bylaw, and made a motion to decline thebylaw.Coun. Roger Hohm spoke against the motion, as while he agreed that there was a lot of people who don’t like face masks he would like to follow the advice of the Chief Public Health Officer for Canada and the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta who say that masks will “protect yourself and others during thispandemic”.Coun. Bill Chapman noted the responses were “overwhelming” and was in favour of themotion. He also said he supported the committee’s communication strategy, and he would like to see them provide the community with information on face masks and COVID-19 cases in thecommunity.Coun. Jacen Abrey said he wasn’t in favour of the motion, and spoke of reading through the comments Simpson had gotten, which included some that were against mask wearing ingeneral.

“We also need to think that when I wear a mask I’m protecting you, when you wear a mask you’re protectingme. So if I have the respect to protect you, you should have the respect to protect me back,” said Abrey, who added he was in the health careprofession. “But I don’t know if a bylaw is the best way of doing this, or if it’s just, ascoun. Chapman said, it’s public awareness, putting signs on the storedoors.”

Abrey also noted noted that the Town of Coaldale has no way to enforce a mask bylaw, pointing to nearby City of Lethbridge, which has a mask bylaw, but said there are still people who don’t wear them instores. However, he couldn’t vote to not have something in place for their residents’safety. He also wondered if those who voted no to a bylaw in SImpson’s survey would object to them putting other safety measures in place to help protect them from thecoronavirus.

Simpson replied that she wasn’t in the health care profession, but she looked into both sides of whether or not to have a maskbylaw. She noted in Lethbridge, where the mask bylaw is a hot topic, people don’t give her the recommended six feet distance that is recommended by healthprofessionals.

“I don’t know why cases are rising after a mask bylaw went into effect there, but I think we really, really need to focus on that six feet apart more than wearing a mask, because it doesn’t always show that there’s other places, other cities that have not put a mask bylaw in, and their numbers are still low,” saidSimpson. “I think it’s that reminding the residents, yes, you can wear a mask, if you so choose, but it’s very important that we give out something to businesses about advertising and reminding residents to stay six feetapart.”

Mayor Kim Craig noted it would be “ironic” if council didn’t have mixed thoughts on the bylaw, as that is what you see in the realworld.

“Reading through the different emails and responses, people are saying thy appreciate the fact of not doing any more harm to businesses and whatnot, and I know that some people are so strongly against mask wearing that they choose to go to businesses that accommodate that and whatnot,” saidCraig. “I would totally respect if our Chief Medical Officer of Health said henceforth, here’s a mask bylaw to be appliedtype-thing. I would really feel a lot better if some of the more educated bodies put some work into something likethat.”

Craig said while he appreciated the work staff had put into the draft bylaw, he had questions around the nature of such a bylaw and it is a “complicatedissue”. Additionally, businesses can react and determine whether they would need thosemeasures.

Chapman said that the business community have “raised the bar” in how they responded to thepandemic.

“It’s really up to the individuals really to show responsibility and respect for their actions in how they conduct themselves in public places,” saidChapman.

According to Alberta Health Services, Albertans are encouraged to wear nonmedical masks in public when it’s difficult to maintain physical distancing of two metres at alltimes. While wearing a face mask is considered another tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it hasn’t been proven that masks protect the person wearing it, although it can help protect people from being exposed to your germs and should complement, not replace, other prevention measures such as social distancing and hand washingmeasures.

Simpson asked if Llyod would amend her motion to include engaging in a citizens awareness program, which Llyodagreed.

Council passed a motion to decline the approval of the Temporary Face Coverings Bylaw #789-R-10-20 and further that the town engage in a public awareness program to disseminate information to local business and residents using readily available materials on various websites in a split 6-1 vote, with Hohm opposed.

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