It wasn’t unanimous, but Lethbridge City Council has passed a temporary, mandatory face covering bylaw.

The aim of the bylaw is to limit spread of COVID-19 and to keep the local economy moving forward. The bylaw, which comes into effect immediately, means people must wear a face covering while in all indoor public spaces anywhere in the City of Lethbridge.

Bylaw 6239, which passed third reading in a 6-3 vote on Monday, states that a face covering must be worn at all times while in an indoor, enclosed, or substantially enclosed public place or in a public vehicle. This will include places like malls, grocery stores, retail businesses, churches, taxi and ride-sharing businesses.

“Many other cities have implemented similar bylaws as a way to protect the health and safety of their community,” says Mayor Chris Spearman. “By making face coverings mandatory across the city, we can also help protect our economy by keeping businesses open. We don’t want to go back to where we were a few months ago.”

While those not adhering to the bylaw could be fined $100, the City will focus on education, encouraging residents to wear a mask as a way to protect those around them.

On August 4, City Council mandated face coverings for all transit riders. Additionally, face coverings were mandated in public spaces of all City of Lethbridge facilities as of August 7.

Not everyone on Council was in favour of such a bylaw. Councillor Ryan Parker was concerned about enforcement as well as the municipality telling private businesses what to do. He told our radio station 90-95% of the emails and phone calls he received on the matter over the past two weeks were people against mandating masks and face covering in public.

A face covering includes a medical or non-medical mask or other face covering that fully covers the nose, mouth and chin.

“Masks are going to be thing for the foreseeable future,” says Spearman. “I am confident our residents are keen to do the right thing and keep each other safe. It’s not about enforcement and my hope is that we don’t have to hand out any fines. Instead, the intent of this bylaw is to help make face coverings the social norm for our community.”

The bylaw does state several exemptions to the mandatory use of face coverings including:

  • A person under the age of 2;
  • Persons unable to place, use, or remove a face covering without assistance;
  • Persons unable to wear a face covering by reason of an underlying medical condition or disability or other protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act;
  • Persons consuming food or drink in designated areas or as part of a religious or spiritual ceremony;
  • Persons engaged in aquatic activities or physical exercise;
  • Persons providing care or assistance to a person with a disability where a face covering would hinder that caregiving or assistance;
  • Persons engaging in services that require the temporary removal of a face covering;
  • A person who is sleeping or in bed at a homeless shelter,
  • A child who is older than two (2) years of age but is younger than five (5) years of age chronologically or developmentally and who refuses to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver.
  • An individual leading in worship, provided physical distancing of at least two metres is possible

As per the Alberta Government recommendations, masks or face coverings should also be worn outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

(With files from City of Lethbridge release)