Masks become mandatory in Medicine Hat
Temporary bylaw takes effect Friday after being passed in emergency council meeting
Face masks will soon be mandatory in Medicine Hat after a temporary bylaw was passed in an emergency city council meeting on Wednesday.
Starting Friday, people over the age of two will be required to wear a mask in all indoor public spaces as well as public vehicles, unless they are exempted due to medical conditions.
Mayor Ted Clugston says the mask bylaw was one of the most divisive issues he has seen among residents and members of council.
"It was a 6-3 vote in favour and I was one of the three that voted against it," he told the Calgary Eyeopener.
"I was out on the weekends and I was happy to see 90 per cent compliance in wearing masks without the bylaw and I just felt it was just unnecessary."
Medicine Hat's population is 68,057 and the city currently has 105 active cases of COVID-19.
Other medium-sized Alberta cities like Lethbridge and Red Deer have already mandated face coverings, but Clugston says he initially didn't see the need to force face coverings.
"We've had some of the lowest numbers per capita in the province of Alberta. Actually, we had very few cases up until November, and we were having compliant residents," he said.
"But then our cases started rising after Thanksgiving."
He says now that they see the rise in cases, council decided to follow the rest of the country with the mask bylaw.
However, Clugston says residents are very split on the issue.
"I'm going to estimate that I received over 2,000 emails in the last seven days … and an almost split 50/50," he said.
"I expect now that we have passed it, I'm going to hear nine to one on the opposing side, anti-masks, because now they're going to want to have them removed."
- Listen to the full interview from the Calgary Eyeopener below.
Clugston says he was hoping the provincial or federal government would have made the decision to mandate them, rather than leaving it to the municipality.
"Municipalities deal with what I call the peace, pools, parks, playgrounds and police. We are not mandated to deal with health issues," he said.
"Dr. Deena Hinshaw is our expert in this and if she thinks that we should be having them, then they should mandate it. I'm tired of the municipality having to wade into provincial issues."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.