South Peace News
Face masks may become mandatory in High Prairie to curb the spread of the coronavirus as the pandemic continues.
At its regular meeting Oct. 13, High Prairie town council approved a motion to draft a bylaw to make masks mandatory when a certain number of cases are reached in the Big Lakes County region. The number of cases is determined by Alberta Health Services.
“I want to have something ready when we need it,” Mayor Brian Panasiuk says.
However, a number was not decided during the 55-minute open discussion on a bylaw.
“When we get around 15 cases, maybe we can consider it,” Panasiuk says.
“What I hear from council is that we should implement masks when necessary.”
Council directed CAO Rod Risling to draft a bylaw for council to consider first reading at its next meeting Oct. 27.
“The second wave of COVID-19 will undoubtedly create further hardship, but municipalities can implement measures to reduce the impact,” Risling writes in a report to council.
Panasiuk notes three COVID cases were recorded by AHS on Oct. 13 in figures for the county, which includes High Prairie and Swan Hills.
The region had no cases for several weeks.
Other council members say the bylaw will help council be prepared to implement measures if and when numbers rise sharply.
“It’s something we have to do,” Councillor Arlen Quartly says.
He reminded council that people throughout the region use High Prairie as a hub community for business and health services.
Quartly says it’s important council has a bylaw ready.
“We may not need to implement it,” Quartly says.
“It’s responsible for us to do this.”
Councillor Debbie Rose agrees.
“If municipalities don’t lead the way, people will start to put their guard down,” she says.
“It’s just about elevating the level of safety.”
She says it’s such a simple step council is asking people to do.
“All it is is putting on a mask,” Rose says.
“This is an opportunity for people to self-regulate.”
Councillor Brian Gilroy says his biggest concern is how council would enforce the bylaw.
The only person wearing a mask at the meeting with 11 people in council chambers, he also suggests the bylaw encompass everything.
“When you look at it, you have to include all gatherings, including churches,” says Gilroy, pastor of High Prairie Church of the Nazarene.
Councillor Donna Deynaka says people need to be more proactive to protect themselves and prevent the spread.
“This is a pandemic,” Deynaka stresses.
“School-aged children wear masks all day.”
Other than that, she says many people ignore AHS guidelines.
“I don’t think many people follow that,” Deynaka says.
“Chances of another spike occurring are pretty good.”
Councillor Judy Stenhouse suggests the bylaw make masks mandatory only in town-owned buildings.
She adds businesses are doing a good job to promote safety.
“They’re managing quite well,” she says.
Overall, she still opposes a bylaw to make masks mandatory.
“I would still like to leave it as a personal choice for people,” Stenhouse says.
She also wonders why a council, with nobody with any medical expertise, is making a decision to over-rule regulations and restrictions of AHS.
Councillor Michael Long was absent from the meeting.