With a recent second wave hitting the province of Alberta with over 17,000 active cases, the Village of Forestburg has chosen to begin a temporary mandatory mask bylaw for indoor spaces beginning Wed. Dec. 2.
This includes civic buildings and public offices such as local bars and restaurants, gas stations, the riding arena, curling rink, hockey arena, library, banks, post office and more.
Council will review this bylaw at a later time where they feel it can be repealed.
Council held a special meeting on Nov. 25 to discuss the serious nature COVID-19 has taken a grip on Flagstaff County with 42 cases as of Thurs. Dec. 3.
At this meeting, they requested a draft bylaw be created and presented at the next meeting on Wed. Dec. 2.
Face coverings means a medical or non-medical, cloth or other face covering that fully covers the nose, mouth and chin.
Children under eight years old are not required to wear a mask as well as people who due to a disability or limitation.
Masks are not required while consuming food and drink at an eating establishment.
Anyone who is caught without a mask while within these types of establishments may be fined up to $500.
Council passed the bylaw after three consecutive readings but some councillors were apprehensive of repercussions from the public that may arise.
Dep. Mayor Bob Coutts was worried about enforcement now that this bylaw has been enacted but councillors shared they understand there will be pushback to a degree and that education is the top priority of this bylaw.
Interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Corrine Newman told council she has spoken with bylaw enforcement and county police as well as RCMP, stating they are all comfortable enforcing this bylaw if there are situations where it gets out of hand.
The plan is to focus on education so people are aware of how close to home the virus has gotten in recent weeks and the value of wearing a mask in public.
The other point Dep. Mayor Coutts brought forward was the possibility of encouraging ‘vigilante harassment’ like behaviour where people vilify others for not wearing a mask “because it will not be good for our community.”
Coun. Dwayne Giroux ‘played devil’s advocate’ saying “Are we promoting this vigilantism by not doing it? Are you going to get the people who are wearing their masks not mandated going after people who aren’t?”
“It could go both ways,” said Coun. Eileen Fossen.
“There is going to be some pushback from some portions of the population and there is going to be challenges,” said Coutts. “It’s not just that we are going to pass a bylaw. I totally agree with what we are saying [in this bylaw] in that people should be wearing masks.”
“Really there is a challenge with everything right? We just have to be aware that there could be a challenge [with passing this bylaw] and we are not the police,” said Coun. Fossen.
Mayor Blaise Young shared his concern for the local Seniors Villa on the east side of the village, wanting to support them as best the village could.
He had a meeting with Flagstaff Regional Housing and one of the lodges they look after is called Rose Alta in Camrose.
They had an outbreak of 30 cases along with four deaths recently.
“We are dealing with the welfare of the community and so therefore we have to take these steps to protect our community. And I think one of the biggest things that we have to do in Forestburg is to do everything we can possibly do to protect that villa.
“They are doing the job, they are walking the walk down there. We as a community have to support that too and keep that [COVID-19] out of there. It would be so devastating to this community if something like that was to happen here and it very well could. We have to be safe, we have to protect as best we can.”
Coun. Giroux added, “If we can’t set an example we have no reason to do this.”