Edmonton city council unanimously extends indoor mask mandate indefinitely without thresholds for repeal

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Edmonton’s mask mandate will be extended indefinitely without any thresholds for its repeal following a unanimous vote by council Tuesday.

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The indoor, public places mask rule within the City of Edmonton was set to deactivate Thursday under the previous bylaw regulations. Deactivation of the rule would have been triggered after 10 days of a case rate below the threshold of 100 per 100,000, which began last Monday. During the first COVID-19 update of the term Tuesday, council decided to remove the threshold and the Dec. 31 repeal date tied to the rule and extend the bylaw unconditionally.

The move comes as the city’s active case rate dropped Tuesday to 78.8 per 100,000 and cases have declined significantly to 818 throughout Edmonton during the fourth wave of the pandemic. But councillors cautioned against ending the bylaw right now, with children still not able to be vaccinated and most of the surrounding municipalities with an active case rate still above 100.

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Even if the bylaw were repealed, the provincial mask mandate remains in effect, but city bylaw officers wouldn’t have been able to enforce the rule as they have throughout the pandemic. The provincial order would only be enforceable by police or Alberta Health Services enforcement officers. With the bylaw extension, the rule will remain in effect even if the provincial mandate is repealed, city manager Andre Corbould said.

Although the bylaw has been extended without a trigger for its end date, council did set parameters about when there will be an automatic discussion about the mandate, with some offering concerns that just leaving it open-ended without a set time to revisit wouldn’t be fair to the public. Ward Nakota Isga Coun. Andrew Knack brought forward a successful motion that will have the city create draft bylaw amendments with four conditions that will prompt a council discussion around the mask rule if they are met. There will also be monthly reports to council.

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If the bylaw amendments are approved in December, the discussion for possible repeal would take place when ICU capacity is below 50 per cent and falling in Edmonton, after the provincial mask mandate is repealed, two weeks after 80 per cent of children between the ages of 5 to 11 have been fully vaccinated and at least 28 days with an active case rate below 100 per 100,000 in the Edmonton Zone.

Knack said with the bylaw losing all triggers for repeal, it was important to have some sort of thresholds to keep the public informed on when the mandate will be revisited.

“I think a fair criticism of the provincial government has been a lack of information sharing, the lack of publicly talking about these things. So this is at least saying, ‘Hey, the next time we’ll talk about it is when we hit these measures.’ It might not change it because who knows what the state of the world will be, but at least we will have something to talk about,” Knack said about wanting to have something for Edmontonians to see as a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. “I do think it’s important for us to have something to reach toward, something to look at.”

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Employee vaccination policy

Also on Tuesday, Corbould provided an update to council on the city’s employee vaccination policy. All employees were required to be fully vaccinated against the virus by Oct. 31. Of the city’s current workforce, 93 per cent have been fully vaccinated. For those without two doses, 660 employees have decided to take part in the city’s rapid testing program, requiring them to pay for testing twice weekly, and 41 people have opted for leave without pay. Another 15 people have been granted medical exemptions.

About 400 daily transit trips were eliminated starting last Monday as a result of 15 lost operators who opted to go on leave.

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3 

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