Business Items    Item #:   2. a.            
Special Council Meeting Agenda
Meeting Date: 08/04/2020  
Title: Face Coverings - Farbrother
Department: Corporate Services
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Request for Decision Summary
The COVID-19 pandemic remains a health risk and the City of Spruce Grove (City) continues to follow health and safety guidelines provided by the Government of Alberta in order to reduce the spread. With businesses reopening, more social interactions and the number of cases across the Edmonton region increasing, additional measures may be considered to mitigate substantive increases of positive cases in the local community.

Proposed Motion
That Council receive the report on face coverings as information and provide direction to administration for a potential staged approach to implementation regarding the required use of face coverings in the municipality.  
On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic related to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The COVID-19 pandemic remains a significant public health risk. Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy’s gradual reopening of business and the resumption of activities has resulted in more people gathering in public, returning to work, and resuming activities. While there have been very few active cases in Spruce Grove, we have been seeing an increase in active cases in the Province at large. The Government of Alberta continues to indicate that they do not have province-wide plans for mandatory face coverings and have left the decision regarding face covering requirements to municipalities and local businesses or organizations.

As outlined in Attachment 1, various approaches have been used to address face coverings in municipalities in Alberta and across Canada.  Each approach however has a general perspective on the following categories:
  • Scope – policy and/or bylaw
  • What – definition of a face covering
  • Where - locations where face coverings are to be worn
  • Who – who is included/exempted from wearing face coverings and when/where
  • Nature of enforcement – who enforces; the municipality directly (Edmonton) or through the business community (Toronto)
  • Penalty for non-compliance
  • Date of implementation
One further consideration that has been discussed by a handful of municipalities of recent is developing a bylaw outlining the above categories but triggering the coming into force date based on the pandemic infection rate.  Alberta Health Services as three levels it codes zones and local areas at:
  • Open (less than 50 cases per 100,000 population)
  • Watch (at least ten (10) active cases and more than 50 active cases per 100,000 population)
  • Enhanced (risk levels require enhanced public health measures to control the spread and are informed specifically by the local context)
In the case of Cochrane, they recently passed a bylaw that requires a person to wear a face covering in a public premise or a public vehicle if the number of active cases are reported by Alberta Health Services to be 10 or more, based on their watch status rate.  If the municipality drops below their watch list rate for 14 consecutive days, the requirement to wear a mask is lifted.
The City of Spruce Grove’s watch list rate is 18 cases.  At time of drafting this request for decision, the City’s case rate was 1.
A further consideration is the supply of face coverings.  As regional transit systems recommenced in the area, a limited number of face coverings were provided to transit riders in Spruce Grove.  There is not an intention to continue supplying face coverings to the public on an ongoing basis as there is a growing supply available to the public through a variety of means.
Lastly, the province announced the morning of August 4, 2020 that all school authorities (public, separate, charter and independent) are directed to ensure students in grades four (4) to twelve wear face coverings as school commences for the 2020-2021 school year.
City Council may wish to consider any or a combination of the following options:
1.    City Council may continue to support the policy requiring mandatory face coverings on public transit and further mandate face coverings in any indoor public area within city-owned facilities.
2.    City Council may request that the Province provide direction with respect to the wearing of mandatory face coverings.
3.    City Council may request an enhanced public education campaign to increase awareness about face covering usage in the municipality.
4.    City Council may, through a special meeting or the next regular scheduled meeting of council, deliberate a bylaw concerning the use of face coverings in all public premises within the municipality.
Leading up to the Council discussions on August 4, 2020 the City undertook two different engagement exercises.  City administration requested feedback from the Greater Regional Parkland Chamber regarding their membership views on the use of mandatory face coverings.  At the time, the Chamber was neutral in their perspective as they represent a business constituency base beyond the City itself.
Commencing the afternoon of July 31 to noon on August 4, 2020, the City encouraged citizens to respond to a short survey that asked whether they wore face coverings when they were out in public currently and whether they support or do not support the use of mandatory face coverings in doors and why.  Feedback from the survey is attached for Council's information.
In order to implement a broader face covering policy (i.e. beyond transit at this time) or bylaw, the City will require to take a number of steps including:
  • possible development of a broader policy or policies to support a graduated approach;
  • continued development and implementation of a communication and education strategy; and/or
  • possible development of a bylaw with various criteria and/or elements.
As various businesses and municipalities have commenced to put in place requirements regarding face coverings across Canada, there has been a wide range of responses.  Some individuals have protested the requirements, citing a violation of their charter rights or other health implications.  At this time, there is no evidence that would suggest either of these complaints are based on fact, however the body of science regarding the transmittance of the virus continues to grow and public opinion on this issue will continue to unfold.
Choices regarding the nature of enforcement and the ensuing penalty require consideration to balance the challenges facing both impacted parties: local administration enforcement teams and the business community.

Attachment 1 - Face Coverings - Municipal Comparison
Attachment 2 - Face Coverings Survey Results