Cities of Leduc, Spruce Grove vote on COVID-19 case trigger before masks mandatory
EDMONTON -- Like several other municipal governments in the capital region, Leduc and Spruce Grove decided Monday night to only require residents to wear masks in public if they're at a certain threshold.
Leduc city council heard that a survey of 5,500 Leduc residents showed nearly evenly split support and opposition for a rule mandating face coverings. Forty-nine per cent voted in favour, while 51 per cent expressed opposition.
A second survey of 182 Leduc business owners and operators found just 34 per cent were in favour.
To include a trigger threshold in the bylaw is a balanced approach, the city says.
"The bylaw that Council has passed recognizes citizen feedback while keeping community well-being top of mind," commented Mayor Bob Young.
"I am confident that this balanced and responsible approach will keep our community as healthy as possible.”
The city of 33,000 people currently has three active cases, according to government data.
Leduc's bylaw includes similar exemptions as the bylaws introduced by its neighbouring municipalities: during fitness, dining or prayer activities and for those who are unable to wear a mask or use it by themself due to a health condition.
Children aged five years or younger do not have to wear a mask.
The bylaw does include a $100 fine, but the city says it will take an education-first approach.
SPRUCE GROVE MASK BYLAW DEPENDENT ON PROVINCIAL WATCH LIST
Spruce Grove city council hosted a vote on the same topic Monday night, but decided to make its bylaw threshold dependent on the province's watch list.
Alberta Health places a jurisdiction on the list when it has at least 10 active cases and more than 50 active cases per 100,000 people. When that happens, authorities start to discuss whether additional health measures are needed.
Currently, Spruce Grove has three active cases out of a population of 37,100, equaling a rate of 8.1 cases per 100,000.
The bylaw would see the rule come into effect if Spruce Grove were to see 18 cases.
Mayor Stuart Houston told CTV News Edmonton surveys by the city and chamber of commerce found the public and business owners were almost evenly divided.
"It's extremely divisive in our community," he said, calling the resulting bylaw one made in balance.
"It's a tool in a tool box. That's the recommendation from our health community, and that's one of the recommendations we're going to be following and promoting."
Area residents will soon see an educational campaign called "Mask Up Spruce Grove."
"Let's face it: We're close to Edmonton... And the Edmonton numbers are steadily rising," Houston said.
"We're going to continue with the strong message."
He said council weighed using a number trigger, like Leduc or Fort Saskatchewan, rather than a case rate, but eventually decided it could be possible the city would see an isolated outbreak that didn't pose significant risk to the wider public.
Before council decided on a trigger, Coun. Wayne Rothe proposed a bylaw immediately mandating masks, regardless of current case counts.
"While I dislike wearing a mask, there are things I would hate more, such as another lockdown, which I believe is inevitable if we don't take appropriate action, and of me or someone near to me died, I would really hate that," he told his fellow council members, referring to Brooks' rise from zero to more than 100 cases in less than a week in May.
Coun. Jeff Acker disagreed: "My fear is that if we put in mandatory masks immediately when our case count is at three, we're burdening the entire community and the business community and our residents with putting on masks with the numbers so low that what if in two weeks... we have mandatory masks and we get six? Then what do we do as a community? We have no additional powers."
Coun. Erin Stevenson told her colleagues she felt torn.
"I support wearing a mask. I wear a mask every single time I go out. My family wears a mask every single time we go out... However, I can't support the amendment as it is. And it's because I go back to the science every single time," Stevenson said.
"We are getting opinions and all sorts of things from many different sides with bunches of different information. So the only way I can separate myself from making an opinion or a decision based on an opinion is to go back to the science. And when I go back to it, I cannot find the health organization or someone who is that authority, who is that expert, who says, 'Yes, masks should be mandatory.'"
Masks will remain mandatory until Spruce Grove has counted 30 days of being off Alberta's watch list.
A similar $100 fine is applicable in Spruce Grove.
The bylaw does not apply to children aged 10 or younger.
Edson is among the latest city governments to make a decision on the debate, also giving three readings on Tuesday to a bylaw that includes benchmarks which would put the region into medium-risk territory. Those benchmarks would be met when the region's case count hits 10, there is a "persistent spread" of infections in the community or an outbreak in a school, or a "persistant and active infection rate profile" of any of the town's neighbouring communities.
Previously, Beaumont had decided to join St. Albert and make face coverings mandatory in all public indoor spaces and vehicles as of Aug. 14.
Strathcona County chose the same route as Leduc, implementing a 25-case trigger.
Edmonton has required masks in all public indoor spaces and transit since Aug. 1, but recently cancelled a program which handed out exemption cards to those who can't wear a face covering.