CALGARY -- Calgary’s mandatory mask rules for all indoor public spaces will remain in effect for at least the majority of the fall unless there is significant progress in the ongoing global effort to curb COVID-19. 

Council voted 11-3 Monday evening in favour of extending the temporary face coverings bylaw, following the recommendation from city administration and results from a compliance report since the rules came into effect Aug. 1. The bylaw will be reviewed on a quarterly basis and would be extended in December if council determines the move is warranted.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the bylaw will continue to help slow the transmission of the COVID-19 disease, avert a potential lockdown and work towards keeping Calgary’s economy open. 

"This is what we do to continue to flatten the curve as long as possible," Nenshi said. 

"Some folks have said to me, 'We already flattened the curve, why do we have to keep working?'. Because it will bounce right back up.”

The city’s objective has been to increase the use of face coverings and a recent Citizen Perspectives COVID-19 snapshot survey of 500 Calgarians shows mask wearing compliance has skyrocketed. 

When the survey came out on Aug. 18, about 89 per cent of respondents reported always wearing a face covering in public and confined spaces. This is a marked increase compared to the 34 per cent who reported doing the same in a survey conducted prior to the bylaw coming into effect. 

The recent snapshot survey also found that 88 per cent of people support the temporary face coverings bylaw. 

"Ongoing monitoring and reporting to council ensures transparency, the ability to address unforeseen circumstances, and effectiveness of the bylaw," said Kai Choi, city manager of strategic services and community standards. 

Choi adds that the city will continue to monitor the bylaw by looking at active cases, transmission rates, and hospitalizations. 

"It is important for Calgarians to understand when the bylaw may be repealed. Determining a specific date or matrix target does not allow the flexibility that is required to respond to local changing priorities, the evolving nature of the virus, or new evidence with regard to face coverings."

City administration notes that the bylaw could only be repealed under one or more of the following circumstances: 

  • If the number of infections, hospitalization and transmission rates hit a sufficiently low level where medical experts agree face masks are no longer recommended.
  • A safe and effective vaccine has seen sufficient local levels of uptake, or a safe and effective treatment has been identified.
  • Alberta Health Services, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the World Health Organization retract their messaging on the use of face coverings, cases on evidence, in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. 

There is currently no magic number for when mask rules could be repealed, but not everyone agrees with extending the bylaw. 

Councillors Joe Magliocca, Sean Chu and Jeromy Farkas all voted against the extension citing a lack of specific data or criteria on how mask rules are unfolding and when the city could do away with them. 

Coun. Druh Farrel was absent for the vote. 

According to the city, Calgary Community Standards has received over 600 reports of concerns through 311 related to people not wearing face coverings in a public place or business not displaying signage. 

Only two tickets for failure to wear a face covering where required have been issued as the city continues to gain compliance through an educational approach.

For additional information on the bylaw visit City of Calgary - Temporary Face Coverings Bylaw