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Banff town council votes down return to indoor masking

The town of Banff will not see a return to masking for indoor public spaces — for now.

COVID cases in the community are among the highest for population size in Alberta

There are 97 active cases of COVID-19 in Banff and Lake Louise, representing the highest active case rate in Alberta. (Helen Pike/CBC)

The town of Banff will not see a return to masking for indoor public spaces — for now.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the region have shot up in recent days. There are 97 active cases in Banff and Lake Louise, representing the highest active case rate in Alberta.

That followed the region reaching COVID zero in June. The recent uptick in cases renewed calls to reinstate a masking bylaw.

On Friday, council debated the merits and downfalls of requiring indoor masking. Ultimately, councillors voted down the mandate.

Questions surrounded how to enforce the mandate and how to handle unruly customers who might harass front-line workers. In addition, council discussed how best to persuade employers to motivate their workers to get the jab.

Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno said council chose to focus on increasing vaccination levels in the community.

"There was a really good discussion, we heard pros and cons of reinstating a mask mandate," DiManno said.

"In the end, council decided that it would just be too challenging being one of the only jurisdictions in Alberta to have one, and that this could cause confusion with visitors outside of our community."

Banff was an early adopter of mandated masking for indoor public spaces and outdoors, but DiManno said the rate of vaccination in the community precluded a similar move being taken now. 

Julia Macdonell has been working in Banff throughout the pandemic. She said she was conflicted about the council's decision.

"I kind of wanted to see it come back just to remind people that we're still in a pandemic and this is still happening and people are still getting sick," she said. "But I'd rather people just got their shots."

The debate will return in September if the town does not reach a vaccination target of 8,100 second doses or 9,100 first doses.

With files from Helen Pike.

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