The City of Edmonton is clamping down on enforcement of the mandatory mask bylaw and will require masks in all city recreation facilities even if an individual is exempt.
On Friday, interim city manager Adam Laughlin announced the change, which will take effect Dec. 1 in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 as cases spike in the Edmonton region. The city has previously advised businesses to make accommodations for those exempt from wearing a face covering by allowing them in or providing curb-side pickup.
But Laughlin said further restrictions are required with the growing number of cases. Masks can be removed when exercising or swimming inside the facilities but must be worn at all other times.
There are currently 6,614 active cases of COVID-19 in the Edmonton Zone.
“We’ve reached the tipping point where the rate of the spread of the virus could grow and cause even more devastating to our health and safety of our residents and our economy,” he said. “The priority right now is shutting down the spread of transmission and protecting our health system.”
The city’s five recreation facilities will remain open for individual exercise and swimming, but Laughlin said 22 arenas will be closing between Dec. 1-18. These arenas weren’t open to the public, but available for bookings by leagues or community organizations. Only the Downtown Community Arena will remain open as part of the World Junior Hockey Championships to be hosted at Rogers Place.
Three city-run senior centres and the St. Francis Xavier Sports Centre will also close and all indoor events and group activities at city facilities will be cancelled, Laughlin said.
Two popular holiday attractions will also look a little different this year. Zoominescence at the Edmonton Valley Zoo will continue but all guests must wear a mask and book timed-entry tickets in advance. Crestwood’s popular Candy Cane Lane will be drive-through only, with sleigh rides and food trucks cancelled this year.
Laughlin cautioned Edmontonians that if there isn’t a reduction in virus transmission by Dec. 15 an expansion or enhancement of restrictions may be required through the holidays. This could include the city taking its own action by ordering the closure of restaurants or businesses.
He also asked residents to avoid non-essential travel as much as possible and shop locally within their neighbourhoods.
Council’s emergency advisory committee is next scheduled to meet on Dec. 10.