Coronavirus Canada updates: Edmonton to debate bylaw mandating masks in all indoor public spaces

Two COVID-19 deaths, 189 new cases reported in Saskatchewan
Two COVID-19 deaths, 189 new cases reported in Saskatchewan

Edmonton city council will consider a temporary bylaw that would impose $100 fines for people who don’t wear masks in any indoor public places starting on Aug. 1.

Council will debate the bylaw at a special meeting on Wednesday.

The draft bylaw was posted to the city’s website just days after the city announced that face coverings would soon be mandatory on public transit and all city-owned and operated facilities to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The changes announced last week did not require a new bylaw.

Under the proposed bylaw councillors are set to debate, a public place is defined as any property to which the public has access. A public vehicle is a bus, LRT or taxi.

“A person must wear a face covering at all times while in an indoor, enclosed, or substantially enclosed public place or in a public vehicle,” the draft bylaw reads.

There would be exemptions.

Children under the age of 2, people unable to place or remove a face covering without assistance, and anyone with mental or physical limitations won’t be required to follow the rule.

Those swimming or exercising won’t have to wear face coverings.

People eating and drinking in designated spaces or as part of a religious ceremony may remove their masks.

Mark von Schellwitz, western vice-president for Restaurants Canada, said the added precautions may help make patrons and business owners more comfortable.

“They just want to make sure that their guests feel as safe as possible,” von Schellwitz said in an interview Monday.

Von Schellwitz said guests would be required to wear masks on their way to a table, then could remove them to eat and drink. They would then re-mask to leave the establishment.

“It’s in our own self interest to ensure that the virus is contained,” von Schellwitz said. “If there’s another big second outbreak, the last thing restaurants want to do is shut down again. So we will do whatever we can to make sure that we’re keeping our guests and keeping our staff safe.”

Von Schellwitz said restaurants are already spending money on personal protective equipment.

An average sized bistro spent about $45,000 to reopen after the lockdown and nearly half of that has gone toward PPE and sanitation supplies, he said.

The municipal bylaw wouldn’t pertain to facilities under provincial jurisdiction, such as schools, hospitals, health-care facilities and child-care centres.

Despite the proposed $100 fine, last week managers and the mayor agreed the city would start educating and raising awareness instead of using enforcement.

If passed, the bylaw would expire on Dec. 31, 2020, unless council votes to extend it.

Calgary and Toronto have mandatory face covering bylaws in place.

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