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Volume 25, Number 31, Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Fort mask bylaw held in reserve

Face masks should have been made law by the Alberta government. But since the Provincial government failed to do it, the task was given to local officials.

Fort Saskatchewan City Council has now failed in this task.

By suspending the face mask bylaw until there are at least 10 active local COVID-19 cases, City Council has created nothing but confusion and delay.

Now we will be required to wear masks only after the situation is already critical.

Masks and any other health measures only work in advance of the problem. By the time a mask bylaw has an impact, the situation will be far worse.

Masks are simple, cheap and effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Alberta Health has made it clear almost from the start of this pandemic that non-medical masks don't protect the wearer, but do protect others. "It hasn’t been proven that masks protect the person wearing it, but it can help protect people from being exposed to your germs.”

If you are confused about masks, it is because you are using information from somewhere other than Alberta Health.

I do agree that the message from Alberta authorities can also be somewhat confusing. We are being told that it is now okay to go to the gym, eat in a restaurant or catch a movie in the cinema. We are also being told that the number of new cases in Alberta continues at an alarming rate. Alberta has the highest number of new cases per capita in Canada.

What should we do? Short of not going to a restaurant, gym or cinema, we should wash our hands well, practice good social distancing, and wear a mask when unable to maintain two metres distance from other people.

But non-medical masks only work when everyone uses them. One infected person walking through a crowd while not wearing a mask will infect everyone else, including those wearing masks.

The numbers show current rules are not working.

A mask bylaw helps control COVID, and might just prevent another lock down. But only if it is in place early enough.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Former Fort priest laid to restNEWS/Entries/2020/8/12_Former_Fort_priest_laid_to_rest.html

Fort drops ball on mask question

A law requiring masks in all public indoor spaces was approved by Fort Saskatchewan City Council last week, but takes effect only if the number of active local COVID-19 cases reaches 10 or more.

The case count provision, proposed by Councillor Brian Kelly, came near to being defeated. Mayor Gale Katchur pondered her vote for several minutes before agreeing with Kelly’s proposal. Had she sided instead with Councillors Lisa Makin and Jibs Abitoye, who opposed the proposal, it would have been lost due to a 3-3 tie vote.

The 10-case threshold is in keeping with Alberta Health Services advice, according to Kelly. Health officials have said that COVID cases become a concern when they exceed 50 cases per 100,000 people. That is the equivalent of 13 active cases in Fort Saskatchewan.

Fort Saskatchewan doesn’t need a mask bylaw when the infection rate is so low, Kelly said during debate on Aug. 4. “I’m not in favour of masking our entire population every time they enter a store when our case count is four.”

Kelly added that “Approximately 50 per cent of the population seems pretty dead set against the mask bylaw.”

Katchur said she had hoped the Alberta government would take the lead in this matter rather than leaving it up to local authorities like this. “A lot of mayors right now are really feeling that the Province is letting us down.”

She added that while she sees the benefit of masks, they are not the whole solution to fighting COVID-19.

Makin strongly supported the bylaw, and opposed adding a threshold. She noted that the Chamber of Commerce wants to see a bylaw in order to protect staff and customers and keep COVID case numbers low. Local business owners don’t want to see another lock down, she said.

The threshold provision creates confusion and will be hard to communicate, Makin warned. “To me a threshold only leaded to uncertainty and does little to ensure long lasting results.”

The rapidly approaching school year is another concern, according to Abitoye. “My concern is that we’re a month away from kids going back to school. We need to take measures now.

“For the sake of our kids, we really have to make sure that people are doing the right thing.”

Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020