With no provincial face covering (mask) laws in place, elected officials in the Town of Athabasca and Athabasca County have worked together to develop a bylaw that mandates the wearing of face coverings (masks) when the region is placed under a ‘Watch’ or ‘Enhanced’ status by Alberta Health.
Both municipalities have been monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and have been waiting for an appropriate time to discuss increased safety measures. With the recent increase of confirmed cases in surrounding municipalities, that time was the week of November 16, 2020, when both municipalities adopted face covering bylaws.
The same version of the Face Covering Bylaw was adopted in both municipalities to prevent confusion when travelling between communities and frequenting shared public places.
“We know that many local businesses have already put in place precautions, including hand sanitizing and social distancing. We applaud your efforts,” says Athabasca County Reeve Larry Armfelt. “If a watch is implemented by Alberta Health this face covering bylaw will be in place to add another layer of safety for everyone.”
Health officials around the world advise that wearing masks are a simple measure we can all take to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. If the bylaw is enacted due to a further rise in COVID-19 cases, we ask that you wear a mask while in all public places in the Athabasca region, and in places where proper social distancing isn’t possible.
FACE COVERINGS NOW REQUIRED
As of November 22, 2020, Bylaw 032-2020 is now in effect. Alberta Health has placed the Athabasca Region under ‘Watch’ or ‘Enhanced’ status after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were confirmed.
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ABOUT THE BYLAW
Where should you wear a mask?
The bylaw states, “All persons shall wear a face covering in an indoor, enclosed or substantially enclosed public place or public vehicle where a physical barrier is not in place or where physical distancing of two meters is challenging or not possible.”
Why was a Face Covering Bylaw implemented?
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise. Provincial health officials, including those who work on the frontline, have been sounding the alarm that without increased safety measures it won’t take long and the ability of our medical facilities to respond to medical emergencies will be significantly reduced.
When was the bylaw put in place?
On November 17, 2020, at a Special Meeting of Athabasca County Council. The outcome of the meeting was the adoption of Bylaw 032-2020 (Temporary Face Coverings Bylaw).
When does it start and when will it end?
The bylaw will be enacted once the Alberta Government places the Athabasca Region under a “Watch” status based on the existing COVID-19 cases. In our region this is 10 cases. The bylaw will remain active for two weeks (14 days) after the Athabasca Region has been taken off “Watch’ status.
Are there exemptions?
Yes. There are exemptions included in Bylaw 32-2020 that will help provide guidance in a variety of situations.
They are as follows:
(a) persons under the age of 10;
(b) persons who are unable to place, use, or remove a face covering without assistance;
(c) persons unable to wear a face covering due to a mental or physical concern or limitation, or a protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act, RSA 2000, c A25.5;
(d) persons consuming food or drink while seated in a designated food and drink seating area, or as part of a religious or spiritual ceremony;
(e) persons engaged in water activities or engaged in physical exercise or other physical activity, within an area designated for such activities;
(f) persons providing care or assistance to a person with a disability where a face covering would hinder that caregiving or assistance;
(g) persons engaging in services that require the temporary removal of a face covering;
(h) persons participating in a dance, theatrical or musical public performance, if all participants in the performance are able to maintain at least two meters of physical distance from each other and do not enter the areas where the public is viewing the performance;
(i) persons providing or receiving a service that requires personal consultation if that activity occurs in a closed office or meeting room and all participants in the personal consultation are able to maintain physical separation of at least two meters from each other; and
(j) persons separated from others by physical barriers or shields such as plexiglass.