'We've got to flatten the curve again': Mayor Nenshi talks about mask bylaw
CALGARY -- Mayor Nenshi spoke with CTV News' Tara Nelson Wednesday about the mask bylaw approved by council, which goes into effect August 1. Here's a transcript of their conversation.
Q. Quebec has done this and only two other major Canadian cities, Toronto and Ottawa, so why did you feel so strongly that it was the thing to do?
A: Two things. One is right now about half the Canadian population is under a mask mandate, because those two big Ontario cities, plus Quebec are about half the population - plus other bits and pieces in little towns and cities around.
For us, it was really data-driven and the fact that we are seeing a spike. Certainly I was very keen on doing it on transit, because our transit ridership is coming back up and for people to feel safe and comfortable on transit, I hear every single day: more people need to be wearing a mask on my bus or train.
But these numbers the last few days are very concerning. We’ve doubled the number of active cases in a week. And a week doubling is about as fast as we were going at the peak of all of this at the beginning of April.
If this doubling continues for two more weeks, we will actually have as many active cases as we had when everything was locked down. So it was important to act now - and you’ve heard me say I’ve been saying for some time the future of the pandemic is in our own hands. We can’t control a hail storm unless we’re (CTV News weatherman) David Spence. We can't control the floodwaters. But every one of us can control the spread of the pandemic and we all have to do three things: Keep your distance - six feet, two metres, 36 mini-donuts apart. Do good hygiene. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, cough into your sleeve, and number three, you gotta cover your mouth and nose when you can’t keep that six feet apart.
And ultimately council, much to my own surprise yesterday said given the numbers we’ve got, the phased approach we’re looking at isn’t going to work, we need to go full bore, right now to try and get a handle on this before kids go back to school in the fall.
Q. This is a bylaw, so how do you possibly enforce it, and how do businesses try and enforce it?
A: The only thing the businesses have to do is they have to post a sign in their premises saying, mask wearing allowed. Beyond that, it’s on the individual. Our bylaw officers are going to be armed not with a ticket book, but with packages of masks - so as always with bylaws, our job is to enforce, and to educate before we ticket.
I hope we’ll get no tickets. And what we’ve seen - we’re not the first place to do this -- it’s not like we’re creating this - what we’ve seen in almost every other place that has a mask mandate is the amount of masking goes up immediately and the vast, vast majority of people are compliant with it.
So my spy, who every single morning sends me a note about how many people were wearing a mask on her train that morning, I was very happy that she’s never seen more than 30, 35 per cent before, and it was 65 per cent today.
So we’re already seeing that kind of compliance.
Q. You said you were nervous about the province sending kids back to school without masks so are you going to try and make that happen in school?
A: With the numbers that we’re seeing here in Calgary, unless it’s very very different by Sept 1, I think the evidence really shows for older children in particular (that) it’s really important to wear masks. Lots of other places have done lots of rules for example, you have to wear a mask when you’re in public areas, you can take it off when you’re at your desk, but you have to put it on when you’re doing close group work with others. I think there’s some flexibility that needs to be in the system here.
I thought I heard the Minister of Education sort of dismiss masks in schools which made me a little nervous but I’ve heard again today that these options are still on the table and they’re looking at a thoughtful plan on this.
And I think parents are really looking for that as well.
Every parent I’ve talked to in the last 24 hours has said, I’m happy about my kids going back to school, I want them to go back to school, but I’m super nervous - and I want to make sure it is as safe as it can possibly be.
And I think that’s what everyone is looking for - but fundamentally, to answer the second half of your question, I believe the city has the power to enforce that as we do in other buildings, but I really would like to be able to work with the province and the education ministry to make sure we’re aligned on this.
Q. There were 133 new cases today. Half are in the Calgary zone. How concerned are you watching our (COVID-19) numbers climb again?
A: The doctor who came to speak to council, Dr. Raj Bardwaj, made a really important point. He said this should be our recess. It should be our halftime. The weather is nice outside. We shouldn’t be seeing case growth because we know we’re going to see huge case growth once people come back indoors.
The fact we’re seeing it now, in the middle of summer, is very troubling because that means that it will really ramp up come September - October.
We’ve got to quash it.
Yesterday the Chief of Calgary Emergency Management said he thinks we might be at the beginning of the second wave.
And as I always remind people, the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic killed five million people in the first wave and nearly 100 million people in the second wave.
We can’t afford it.
We’ve got to flatten the curve again. It is no longer flat -- and then push that out as far as we can.