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Residents were given the opportunity to send written submissions to council and Mayor Don Iveson said he heard a majority of support for the bylaw extension. He said vocal opposition last week started making residents nervous about whether it would be extended or not.
“The fact that we were even having the debate as if we might not renew it actually scared a lot of people,” he said. “We don’t want to start that anxiety up again in a few months’ time, we’d rather have a celebratory discussion about repealing it rather than fear-fuelled divisive debate again in a few months about extension of it.”
Iveson said the city will look at provincial data such as the active case rate and positivity rate to inform discussions about potential appeal. He said the hope is to be able to have the discussion next spring and in the meantime the mask mandate will help limit spread of the virus.
“It will be the same indicators that will inform the removal of all of those other measures, which again we hope will be in the first part of next year and when that comes we’ll be able to pass three readings of a bylaw to repeal the mask bylaw in due course,” he said. “This will be a point of great celebration and I look forward to it and I just hope it’s sooner rather than later like everybody else.”
There are many exemptions under the bylaw that will continue. Children under the age of two, people who are unable to place or remove a mask without assistance and residents unable to wear a mask due to a physical or mental concern or limitation are exempt. Masks also aren’t required during physical exercise or while eating or drinking in a designated seating area or as part of a religious ceremony.
Non-compliance of the bylaw could lead to a $100 fine. Since the mandate came into effect Aug. 1, city enforcement officers doled out four tickets and gave 2,012 warnings.
The bylaw doesn’t apply in buildings under provincial jurisdiction such as schools, health-care facilities, hospitals and childcare facilities. Employee-only spaces with a physical barrier between patrons and common areas of multi-unit residential buildings are also exempt.