CALGARY -- The idea of mandating the wearing of masks both indoors and in outdoor public areas received unanimous support from Banff town councillors Monday.

Deputy Mayor Corrie Dimanno says there are still a number of steps before the bylaw is passed.

“Right now we’re just in the phase of exploring," said Dimanno, "so administration is going to come back with the information around authority and legalities and enforcement in August."

Banff has increased its public pedestrian space from 5,000 square metres to more than 12,500, to accommodate upwards of 30,000 people to move around the downtown. It did this by closing off Banff Avenue to vehicles.

The resort town is seeing an increase in visitors with people trying to escape the confines of their homes during the pandemic by travelling to the mountain parks.

That prompted taking the first steps towards mandating masks Monday.

“With more visitors coming to town, we just feel that there aren’t enough people wearing masks in the downtown pedestrian zone, as well as other popular areas on busy days,” said Dimanno.

Trial run

Silvio Adamo is the fire chief and emergency management director. He’s seeing anywhere from five to 15 per cent of visitors wearing masks in Banff on any given day. Last week fire fighters did a trial handing out masks and it was well received.

“We handed out 2,700 masks over Friday and Saturday and it was very well accepted,” said Adamo.  “Folks were putting the masks on as we were providing them so it was great to see people’s uptake on being more safe.”

The town is getting 100,000 masks from the provincial government and will hire six safety ambassadors to hand them out free of charge seven days a week starting July 18.

“For now we’re hoping that just by informing people that we are going to have this bylaw that it will promote the use of masks,” said Dimanno. “It will help raise awareness about the benefits of wearing masks as well.”

The goal is to make Banff a safe visitor destination that all Albertans can confidently visit.

“It’s not just one thing,” said Adamo. “You know we have to wear masks we have to make sure we have good hand hygiene and we stay away when we’re not feeling well so all of those things combined will help us stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Banff town council’s next meeting is August 10, where it will have an in-depth discussion before a bylaw is approved.