Masks Will Be Mandatory Across RMWB When Active Cases Reaches 50

Masks will be mandatory across the RMWB when active COVID-19 cases hit a certain limit.

Wood Buffalo council met on Tuesday where they approved having residents wear masks in all public spaces when there are at least 50 individuals who knowingly have the virus.

Right now, there are 26 active cases across the region.

Councillors Jeff Peddle, Verna Murphy, Sheila Lalonde, and Keith McGrath voted against citing concerns over the wording, the ability to enforce, and whether they should be making this decision.

However, Mayor Don Scott says this is a measure that will help save lives.

“I believe we have a moral responsibility to protect those who are vulnerable such as the elderly who live in our region and those who also have health conditions.”

If the region hits the trigger, the measure will be implemented over a 30-day stretch and won’t be lifted if we remain over the threshold.

Under the bylaw, the RMWB will look to first educate people caught without a mask, followed by $100 fines for the next offense and $200 fines afterward.

Those under the age of five, need help to put a mask on or have a physical or mental illness that requires them to avoid using a mask would be exempt from the bylaw. People helping somebody with a disability and would have their support hindered by wearing a mask won’t have to wear one as well.

There are some exceptions for the entire public. This includes when eating, drinking, exercising, or leading/ attending a religious activity.

Individuals could also be fined for ‘harassing’ or ‘intimidating’ these individuals.

“Just wear your f-ing masks or don’t but at the end of the day it’s your decision,” added Murphy, who voted against the bylaw.

Public Divided

The idea of mandatory masks has divided much of the region.

Back in September, over 110 residents gave their views directly to council by speaking directly or sending an email to the municipality.

Many spoke out against the measure, while others called for it to be approved.

In a written submission to the RMWB, Sabrina Angell noted the decision should be made by each individual.

“As I am out and about in town, I noticed people are choosing to wear a mask where ever they go. This is their choice. Why not just leave it at that? Let this be our choice.”

Contessa Short, who also submitted a written letter to the municipality, believes this is an easy thing to do.

“We all want to set good examples for our children. Let’s show them we can make a difference and protect one another with the simple act of wearing a mask when in public.”

Masks are currently mandatory in schools for all grade 4 to 12 students, staff, and teachers. They’re also mandatory for these students who use public transit.

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