A special council meeting was called on Aug. 18 to discuss the reimplementation of the mandatory mask use bylaw, which had once again come into effect two days prior.
The bylaw had stated that mask use was to be mandated in the Town of Strathmore so long as more than 20 active cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed within the municipality.
Councillor Lorraine Bauer brought forward a request on Aug. 17 to discuss Bylaw 20-28 and whether it should continue.
During the meeting, it was voted by council to rescind the bylaw. Mayor Pat Fule said he feels the town is much safer today than it was when the bylaw was first implemented.
“I feel that the triggering case load of 20 was low for our current vaccination rate,” he explained. “However, I am prepared to consider a return to safety measures if we see a continued increase in case numbers.”
Fule added that he acknowledged the strong response that the return of the bylaw caused within the community and that there are diverse opinions regarding a continued mandate.
“The community is polarized around this, and my hope is that we can focus on vaccinations rather than getting further polarized over masks right now,” he said.
Susan Morningstar, a concerned citizen, said she was not pleased when she discovered the bylaw had been repealed, and would like to see more discussion about bringing it back.
“I am so disappointed because if they had kept it in place, then the schools wouldn’t have to go through any rigamarole (for) each school and figuring out what the school board is going to say,” she said.
“I think until the entire world is vaccinated, we’re going to be living with a pandemic … and I think as a community we should think of the safety of everyone over the concerns of people having to put a mask on to go into a store.”
Morningstar added she is concerned for the safety and welfare of her husband, who she added lives with heart issues and is at greater risk of infection.
“It just seems so ridiculous that something that is so safe, that is proven to be safe, can just be wiped out by councilors who don’t think their voters are going to like it,” she said. “I’m no activist. I’m just a grandma who’s concerned about her family and the families around me and I just wish that we could show that concern for everybody in our community, and we’re not.”
Fule explained town administration continues to monitor the local active case count and is advising council.
“While many of the responses to me have been supportive concerning the repeal of the mask bylaw, I will not hesitate to bring the issue forward if the positive COVID-19 cases greatly increase,” he said. “I want everyone in Strathmore to still be here for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
The Town of Strathmore had 49 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 as of Aug. 22.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times