Edmonton may keep mask bylaw until 70 per cent of its population fully vaccinated

·3 min read

EDMONTON — The mayor of Edmonton says he's considering a request from a doctors group that he and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi keep masking bylaws in place until at least 70 per cent of their cities' eligible populations have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Don Iveson said at a briefing Tuesday that he's concerned about lifting masking bylaws in lockstep with the final stage of the Alberta government's reopening plan.

Last week, the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association sent a letter to both mayors that expressed concern about the pace of the province’s plan, given that a variant first identified in India is able to infect two-thirds of people who have only had a single dose.

"They have been right every time," Iveson said of doctors' groups that have issued warnings about reopening plans.

"So their track record speaks for itself and I take their input very seriously."

Nenshi said in an email Tuesday that Calgary city council plans to discuss its face-covering bylaw and is weighing all options for next steps.

"The safety and protection of our community remains our priority, and will guide our decisions," he said.

Iveson said he and Nenshi have agreed to keep in touch as both city councils debate the issue.

In Calgary, there is also a debate about the timing of masking bylaws and the Calgary Stampede that is expected to start in early July.

"Albertans may travel to the Stampede for something to do, so it's also by proxy and issue for our citizens and for our doctors," Iveson said.

"If people get sick and come home or if things get bad in Calgary and they need to overflow to here, those are all knock-on impacts to our community and to our health-care workers."

The province has said Stage 3 of its reopening plan, which could happen as early as June 24, would see all health restrictions lifted as long as 70 per cent of Albertans 12 and over had received at least one shot.

Premier Jason Kenney said Monday that the province is ready to go ahead Thursday with the second phase, which includes allowing up to 20 people at outdoor gatherings, weddings and funeral services.

To reach that stage, 60 per cent of eligible Albertans had to have at least one shot. Kenney noted that about 67 per cent had already received one dose.

But he also said 115,000 more people need to get their first shot within the next week if the final stage is to go ahead later this month.

There were 100,000 bookings for the next week, Kenney added.

The province reported Monday there were 4,707 active COVID-19 cases and, of those, 127 were new. There were 140 people in hospital due to the virus, including 94 in intensive care.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, was to hold a COVID-19 briefing later Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2021.

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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