Sturgeon County is holding off on making masks mandatory in public spaces, and wants the province to step up and lead when it comes to this public health measure.
County council voted unanimously Aug. 11 to get an update on the COVID-19 situation in Sturgeon this Aug. 25 and to write a letter asking Premier Jason Kenney and provincial chief medical officer of health Deena Hinshaw to provide leadership on the issue of mandatory masks in public spaces.
Many Alberta communities, including Edmonton and St. Albert, have passed laws in recent weeks requiring people to wear face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. The decisions followed an upswing in infections in Alberta in late July.
The details vary from place to place – St. Albert and Edmonton require mask use in all indoor public spaces and vehicles for hire, while Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona County require masks in municipally owned buildings and on public transit. St. Albert and Edmonton's requirements were currently in effect, while those in Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona would not kick in until those communities reached a certain threshold of active COVID-19 cases (10 and 25, respectively).
Sturgeon County had two active cases of COVID-19 as of Aug. 11 while St. Albert and Morinville had one each, said county corporate services director Jesse Sopko. The county did not run recreation centres or transit systems, had few businesses where people could not physically distance from each other, and had deployed hand sanitizer, masks, and other safety measures at county offices. He did not recommend mandating mask use at this time due to the low case count, but said the county should keep a close eye on the pandemic.
Coun. Patrick Tighe said he was frustrated that the federal and provincial medical officers had not stepped up to provide leadership on the mask issue.
“Seatbelts are not willy-nilly done by municipalities or corporations. They’re mandated by the province, and I don’t understand why provincial-level medical officers have said ‘Everyone make up their own rules,’” he said.
“We need to have consistency.”
Sopko noted that the province has said face coverings are a complement, not a replacement, for preventative measures such as hand washing, physical distancing, and staying home when sick. While masks are not proven to protect the wearer from COVID-19, they do help protect others from being exposed to it.