EDMONTON -- The City of Red Deer will not make wearing masks mandatory.

In the past week, Calgary passed a bylaw requiring mandatory masks in all public buildings and public transit. Starting Aug. 1, Edmonton will also make masks mandatory in city-owned facilities and public transit.

However, in a statement on Friday, Mayor Tara Veer said the City of Red Deer, for the time being, would not adopt the idea.

“At this time, given current case numbers within the city, the City of Red Deer is not considering implementing mandatory masking in Red Deer, however this may be revisited at any time given fluctuating case numbers in the city and region along with direction from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.”

As of Friday, the Central Zone has 161 active cases of COVID-19 with 33 people in the hospital and seven people in intensive care. Out of those 161 active cases, 11 cases are within the City of Red Deer.

“The caseload in the region is absolutely critical to the City’s consideration of implementing a mandatory mask policy,” said Veer.

However, Veer added the recent increase in cases of COVID-19 within the Central Zone is concerning.

“The recent uptick in cases in the region is concerning and serves as a reminder of the importance of following all public health orders to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community.”

Veer said she will continue to have conversations with other Central Zone municipal leaders to ensure the safety of the entire region.

“We continue to have discussions with other local leaders within the Central Zone health region to ensure our decisions are cohesive as we all access the same healthcare services.”

While there is no province-wide plan for mandatory masks, Alberta Health Services does recommend wearing non-medical masks in public in situations where it is difficult to maintain physical distancing.

“We are asking our citizens and businesses to follow health and safety protocols on a voluntary basis and for the safety of others,” said Veer.

The City of Red Deer is handing out free masks for transit users and masks are available at recreation facilities for scheduled users.