Face covering bylaw takes effect

Mayor Jeff Genung stands outside the RancheHouse wearing his mask on July 29 after he and other councillors passed a face covering requirement should active cases reach 10, a figure that's been reached three months later. jpg, CT

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Face coverings are now required in indoor public settings in Cochrane.

It’s the result of the November 9 activation of the town’s face covering bylaw, which had tied a mask requirement to an active cases-per-population ratio for COVID-19. That threshold (10 active cases) had just been met.

The mandatory requirement will be removed when local active cases fall back below 10 for 14 straight days. The most recent public information as of press time indicated 16 active cases.

‘Public settings’ in the context of the local mask bylaw refer to both publicly owned sites like COLT buses and the RancheHouse, and privately owned spots like retail stores.

There are several exemptions to the face-covering bylaw.

People aren’t required to wear them when eating or drinking in a public premises like a restaurant, when doing physical activity at a gym or fitness centre, temporary, necessary instances like a dentist visit, or in private spaces like an office. People with disabilities or underlying medical conditions that affect their ability to wear a face covering, children under five, those who are unable to place, use or remove a face covering safely without assistance, and caregivers for a person with a disability where wearing a face covering would be a difficulty (like the ability to lipread), are also exempt.

“We want Cochrane to thrive, for businesses to stay open and for our residents to stay healthy,” reads a November 9 media release from the Town of Cochrane.

Similar to the City of Calgary, the town’s definition of ‘face covering’ is broad. Provided they cover the nose and mouth, medical and non-medical masks, homemade masks and ski-style face coverings are all permitted within the bylaw.

However, the Alberta and federal governments recommend a mask of at least three layers: two of a tightly woven material like cotton, and a middle layer as a filter like polypropylene. Masks should cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaps, but still allow for comfortable breathing.

Masks should be changed or washed frequently. And of course, masks are to complement, not replace, other public health recommendations like distancing and sanitization.

The town’s threshold of 10 active cases is based on a provincial government ratio used to indicate the risk of spread of COVID-19 in an individual city or town. The three provincial risk levels are ‘open’, ‘watch’ and ‘enhanced,’ and active cases in Cochrane of 10 or higher is the number that moves the town from ‘open’ to ‘watch’.

It’s a similar strategy to what many Alberta and Canadian municipalities have taken when it comes to implementing a COVID-19 mask bylaw.

When council made the decision 5-2 on July 29 in favour of the bylaw, multiple members of council expressed frustration that they were being left to make a decision they felt should be under the jurisdiction of the province.

The town said the bylaw decision reflected recommendations made by federal, provincial and regional health authorities to wear face coverings to limit the spread of the coronavirus where physical distancing isn’t an option.

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