Edmonton encourages face masks in public, but won't make them mandatory

People in Edmonton may continue shopping and riding public transit without having to wear masks, interim city manager Adam Laughlin told council at a meeting Thursday. 

City would have to create a bylaw to mandate that people wear face coverings

Toronto will soon require people to wear masks in all indoor public settings, such as on transit. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

People in Edmonton may continue shopping, dining and riding public transit without wearing masks, interim city manager Adam Laughlin told council at a meeting Thursday. 

But Laughlin said the city strongly encourages people to wear masks in public places, such as on public transit. 

The question of mandatory masks was a major topic at the emergency advisory committee Thursday, where Laughlin gave an update on the city's progress in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Toronto will require people to wear masks in all indoor public places, starting next week.

Dr. Chris Sikora, medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services, joined Thursday's meeting virtually.

"Face coverings are recommended, but they are not mandated," he told council. 

The level of protection varies depending on the mask and how people wear them, he said, which is one reason the province is not mandating them. 

Several councillors expressed concern that masks haven't been made mandatory, especially on public transit. 

Coun. Andrew Knack said he was concerned that only about half the riders he has seen on public transit are wearing masks. 

"Transit has not been identified as a significantly higher risk environment," Sikora said, compared to other indoor places. 

Knack noted that airlines and long-distance bus companies are requiring clients to wear masks. 

The city is no longer under a state of local emergency, which would have allowed Laughlin to make masks mandatory. 

Without that extraordinary power, the city would have to create a bylaw to mandate that people wear them, he said. 

Edmonton is reporting 10 to 30 new cases of COVID-19 a day, Sikora said, based on 1,000 to 3,000 tests a day.