Calgarians may still be required to wear face masks through July, despite Alberta's Stage 3 reopening
CALGARY -- While the province prepares for a full reopening on Canada Day, Calgarians may still have to wear masks for at least another month.
As the city heads into a scheduled quarterly review of the mask bylaw Monday, a recommendation before councillors is to maintain the mask bylaw until July 31.
City of Calgary administration says the extension is needed to ensure the province's reopening plan does not spark a new wave of COVID-19 infections.
As councillors debate the bylaw, they are under significant pressure from Premier Jason Kenney to get in line with the province's July first limiting of restrictions
"I would just hope that everyone in the province follows the advice of the chief medical officer proposed," said Kenney when asked about Alberta cities possibly maintaining mask bylaws. "I have got to believe that our municipal leaders will respect to the plan put forward by the chief medical officer, and the public health team."
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the province’s decision to eliminate its mask regulations codes not force the city’s hand. At a press conference last week, Nenshi said any extension of the mask bylaw past July 1 is in the hands of local authorities.
"We here at the City of Calgary have to make a decision for Calgary based on the very local issues here, based on the outbreaks here, based on the variants here, based on the neighbourhoods here, and so we will make that decision," said Nenshi, before adding that any extension of the bylaw will likely be short-lived.
"Ultimately we're probably talking about a difference of a few weeks at most, so I'm speculating, but I would find it hard to imagine that we would not repeal the face coverings bylaw by the end of July at the latest."
Calgary’s mask bylaw came into effect July 21, 2020. Since then, it has been amended several times raising the fines from $50, to $100 and finally to $500 for contravening the bylaw. It also sparked significant protests from groups claiming the mask bylaw infringed on their personal freedom.
Calgary council is being presented with four choices on how to proceed with the mask bylaw.
The City of Calgary’s original plan, when the bylaw was first introduced, was to repeal it when 75 per cent of eligible Calgarians were fully vaccinated. It now admits that is a threshold that may never be met.