Claresholm mayor says town split over masks

·3 min read

Dale Woodard Lethbridge Herald

The Town of Claresholm defeated a proposed face coverings bylaw during a special meeting of town council Monday, but is asking residents to continue to be diligent and follow all public health protocols in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of the most recent provincial update on Friday, the region of Central Willow Creek MD – Claresholm had 21 active COVID-19 cases.

Claresholm Mayor Doug MacPherson said the defeated bylaw has been greeted with a split reaction locally.

“I believed in the motion when it was put forward and support it. But after an hour of deliberating and hearing both sides, and over the weekend talking to many of the residents, it was a very split in the town. I would probably say it was 50-50. There were as many people for it as against it,” he said. “But the one thing I did find through the whole process was there were very few people that were dead set against wearing masks, very few. A lot of people who were opposed to the bylaw simply wanted freedom of choice.”

Speaking to council via Zoom, local physician Dr. Jeff Jones spoke of the importance of wearing face coverings and how it helps to protect those around the wearer, not necessarily the person who is wearing the mask.

He emphasized the importance of following the three W’s: wear a mask; washing hands; and watching one’s distance.

“Out of those three things, certainly wearing the mask is the most important,” said Jones. Jones said it’s unknown where the local current cases started. “Somebody who was asymptomatic came in contact with at least one person and it just sort of blossomed from there.”

MacPherson said there was no win or loss with the bylaw decision.

“It was a contentious item because the town’s numbers were going up and it was something we felt we should get together and talk about. There was a lot of talk around town. We put the information out Friday. I talked to a lot of people Friday and over the weekend and Monday and there were a lot of different views,” he said. “The average person who was against it simply wanted freedom of choice. There were a few people out there with quite radical views, but there is always that five per cent. You can kind of discount those people that have all these hidden agendas and listen to the true population. The majority of people were in favour of wearing masks, but not to the point of having a bylaw and I think it worked out fine.”

Councillor Lise Schulze noted the work being done by other individuals outside of what is being mandated.

“I think we should be open to the idea there might be other views and we shouldn’t shame them or criticize them,” she said. “I know people who are very intelligent who do a lot of research and offer very contradictory views to what is currently being mandated. So I don’t want to mandate that my residents have to wear masks if they don’t want to. I don’t want to mandate that the businesses have to wear masks. I don’t want to be the one to do that and I don’t think we should be the ones to do that. I think we should have enough respect for our community that people can make the choices they want to make. The businesses who do not want to have to put a mask on or impose that people have to, I don’t think they should be penalized.”

If COVID numbers continue to climb, MacPherson said council could revisit Monday’s decision.

“It’s something we would wait and see, but if the numbers surge significantly, we would definitely look at it.”

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Dale Woodard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald