Calgary councillor asks city to reinstate mask bylaw, as Alberta rolls back COVID measures
Coun. Jyoti Gondek is calling for an emergency meeting of council
A Calgary councillor is asking the city to do what it can to protect public health, as the provincial government begins to end COVID-19 health measures.
Coun. Jyoti Gondek is calling for Calgary council to hold an emergency meeting to discuss possible actions, including reinstating the city's mask mandate.
"We are not asking a lot from our provincial government, we are simply asking them to do their job. It is not asking a lot for statistics to be made public. It is not asking a lot to be told when an active case of COVID is in a place where it can spread," Gondek said.
Last week, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the province has largely stopped contact tracing, will soon stop testing people with mild symptoms and will end the legal requirement for those who test positive to isolate.
The move comes as Alberta's COVID-19 cases are surging, the R-value and positivity rate have risen and the more infectious delta variant has become the dominant strain. Hinshaw said Alberta will shift to a strategy of managing coronavirus like other respiratory illnesses, a move that prompted swift condemnation from many doctors and policy experts.
Gondek told a crowd of hundreds of protesters in Calgary on Monday — the fourth daily protest in the city against the province's move — that the UCP government's "abdication" of responsibility pushes responsibility to other orders of government.
While public health is under the province's mandate, Gondek said there are options available for the city, from reinstating a mask mandate to asking Calgary's chief of emergency management to provide daily updates on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the city's wastewater.
"We will do everything that we can. Public health is not in our purview, I don't have the power to make this better for you, but with all of you we have the power to demand more," Gondek said. "To deny the public and to deny policymakers evidence to the data is a big mistake."
Other councillors, including Coun. Druh Farrell and Gian-Carlo Carra have said they would be in support of reinstating a mask bylaw.
"I'm not prepared to simply give up and let the province put people in harm's way," Farrell, who was also in attendance at Monday's protest, wrote on social media on Friday.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told CBC's Power and Politics on Monday that Alberta's decision is inexplicable and that it could further allow the virus to mutate by allowing it to spread.
"I don't want to unleash an Alberta variant on the world," the mayor said.
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Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room doctor and one of the organizers of the ongoing protests, said while wastewater data is helpful, it doesn't provide enough detail to understand if an outbreak is happening at a specific school, or workplace.
He's calling on the province to release the modelling behind its decision.
"This is the first time a jurisdiction in Canada has put at risk the entire population of a province," Vipond said. "I think Albertans deserve to know what the impact of this new policy is going to be on our health."
It's not yet known if or when a special meeting of council will be held. The protesters are expected to meet at McDougall Centre in downtown Calgary again on Tuesday at noon.
With files from Julie Debeljak