Edmonton extends mask bylaw indefinitely

Edmonton’s mask mandate will stay in place with no thresholds for repeal or expiry date, after council voted Tuesday to revise the current bylaw. 

The bylaw was on the verge of expiring as it came close to hitting a trigger of having 10 consecutive days of fewer than 100 active cases per 100,000 people.

City manager Andre Corbould said Edmonton has had five straight days of active cases under 100. 

That threshold was set — along with an end date of Dec. 31, 2021 — when council last amended the bylaw in September. 

Corbould said the revamped bylaw provides certainty. 

“I think what council did was a very prudent decision to maintain public safety throughout the City of Edmonton,” Corbould said after the meeting. 

Councillors also agreed to discuss a new set of conditions in December. 

Masks are already required at indoor public places due to the province’s current restrictions but it’s not clear how long that will last.

Thresholds to come

Coun. Andrew Knack suggested the city look at stronger conditions if amending the bylaw next month. 

He put forward a motion for council to consider that the city rescind the bylaw after the active case rate is below 100 per 100,000 people for 28 straight days — similar to the City of Calgary’s bylaw. 

The motion stipulates that the city could lift the bylaw two weeks after 80 per cent of children between five and 11 are fully vaccinated. 

“I do think it’s important for us to have something to reach toward, something to look at,” Knack said. 

Knack said the city should have some triggers in place and not rely on the province to uphold the measures.

“One of my frustrations over the last year and a half, I felt like I’ve been out of the loop from the province in a lot of their conversations around how they’ve managed the pandemic, have not been public.”

Ongoing concerns

Councillors started weighing the options at an emergency advisory committee meeting earlier in the day, the first for the newly elected mayor and council. 

That committee has been meeting on a regular basis since the beginning of the pandemic, where council gets an update on the city’s response to COVID-19 developments. 

Michael Janz, councillor for Papastew, said people should continue to wear masks under the present circumstances, with children under 12  eligible to be vaccinated yet. 

“Every day I do a pick up from daycare and every morning I wonder: is today the day when we’re going to get a Delta variant?” Janz said. “And it certainly is an ever-present stressor for many, many parents.

Erin Rutherford, councillor for Ward Arirniq, said she was reluctant to support more thresholds that give people the message that the bylaw will be lifted once the city has reached that goal. 

“I think creating false hope for people is just as bad as creating no hope,” she said. 

Corbould suggested that administration report back to council on a regular basis with updates. 

“I think Edmontonians understand we have to be agile,” he said. “And the easiest thing, the clearest, simplest thing is to ask us to come back on a routine basis.” 

The city first introduced its facing covering bylaw in August 2020, before the Alberta government mandated masks province-wide. 

Dr. Chris Sikora, medical officer of health for the Edmonton zone, also attended the meeting Tuesday. 

He reiterated that people should continue following the same health precautions they have been through the pandemic. 

“Masking works, physical distancing works,” he said. 

@natashariebe

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