Masks will soon be mandatory in Calgary. Here's a breakdown of what that means

CBC Calgary breaks down the city's latest mandatory face covering bylaw and what you need to know about it.

Masks have to be worn in malls, but not in schools

A man wears a face mask as he waits for transit in Calgary on March 18 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Such masks will soon become mandatory for indoor public spaces, including transit, after a Calgary city council vote Tuesday. (The Canadian Press)

Calgarians will soon have to wear mandatory face masks in all public areas, after city council voted 12-3 to make it a bylaw on Tuesday.

It's set to take effect as of Aug. 1, with the goal of limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Tuesday the city needs to take "bold action now if we want schools to reopen, if we want kids to feel safe," and to hopefully keep the economy from closing again. 

But what do these public spaces really entail? CBC Calgary breaks down the city's bylaw and what you need to know about it.

Any place you have a right to be in

According to the draft bylaw, face coverings — a mask or other covering that covers the mouth, nose and chin and forms a barrier to limit the transmission of infectious respiratory droplets — must be worn in all public places, unless the people are separated by an installed screen, shield or other barrier.

Those public spaces include any building, structure or other enclosed area where the public has access to by right. In other words, that means places like grocery stores and shopping malls.

The bylaw applies to Calgary Transit buses and the CTrain as well as taxis and Ubers.

Places of worship will be included in the bylaw. However, those in attendance may remove their masks temporarily to provide or receive service, such as to receive communion, a city spokesperson said.

The bylaw excludes any place where there is an enrolment or membership requirement in order to access it. 

Schools, gyms, dental office, restaurants

Mandatory face coverings will not apply to schools or daycares.

The province's education ministry announced on Tuesday that students will go back to school in the fall, and that masks will not be mandatory.

In a letter to the Alberta Teachers' Association, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said school authorities will need to have masks on hand for staff dealing with students who may be infected until their parents/guardians come pick them up.

In the city's draft bylaw, any place where people are engaging in fitness activities will also be exempt. However, if the facility is accessible to the public, people not working out would have to wear a face covering, the city says.

Some of these stipulations may be subject to change — it's expected amendments to the city's mask bylaw will come forward next Monday.

People also won't be mandated to wear masks when it prevents them from providing or receiving a service.

That means people won't have to wear masks while dining out for food or drinks, and, similarly, masks won't need to be worn while at the dentist.

The bylaw won't apply to outdoor settings, the city said, but face coverings are still strongly recommended where it is difficult or impossible to maintain physical distance outside.

When it comes to private workspaces, it depends. For example, masks must be worn at the front of a store but not in a stockroom or manager's office.

To help clarify where people are expected to wear masks in Calgary, the city said businesses will be required to post signs to outline the new rules. 

People or businesses could be fined between $100 to $200 for non-compliance, though the city says its aim is an educational approach. 

Other exemptions

The city said there are other reasons a person doesn't have to wear a face covering. The exemptions include:

  • Children under 2 years of age.
  • People with underlying medical conditions or disabilities inhibiting their ability to wear a face covering.
  • People who are unable to place, use or remove a face covering safely without assistance.
  • People who are caregiving for or accompanying a person with a disability where wearing a face covering would hinder the accommodation of the person's disability.

What if I can't afford a mask?

The city said it will include a distribution system at public facilities.

The province said free masks are available at A&W, McDonald's Canada and Tim Hortons restaurant locations in Alberta.

The masks are being doled out at the counter of the fast food chains or through the drive-thru while supplies last.

With files from Scott Dippel


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