Mayor Jeff Genung says the town will be stepping up its discussions on whether face masks will be made mandatory in Cochrane's indoor public spaces following the decision reached by Calgary City Council yesterday.
As of Aug. 1, face masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces in Calgary. Mayor Naheed Nenshi is encouraging people to start using them now.
"We're looking at the possibility in our transit system and public spaces, but we were waiting to see where Calgary landed," says Genung. "Those discussions will pick up now."
In the end, he says the decision will be based upon the science.
"Our administration team has been monitoring this closely and, like we always say, the health and wellness of Cochrane residents is our number one priority."
At the same time, Genung believes the only time a government should step in is when people aren't following regulations when the greater health of people are being impacted.
Yet, he believes face masks are a small price to pay to prevent us from taking a step backwards.
"We cannot afford to step backwards here with our economy. We can't afford to go back and have to put restrictions in place. And, really what the masks do is flatten that curve a little bit more, keep people safer, and hopefully allows our economy to continue to open up and get people back to work, get jobs flowing, and get the economy in recovery mode."
Already this morning, some residents have contacted Genung asking the town to make them mandatory. But he has also had discussions with those opposed to mandatory face marks, particularly those who have breathing issues, and can't wear masks.
"That's part of the group that's reached out to me. They've been asking if it's mandatory and I can't wear one, do I have to show a card? Is there going to be public shaming around this? So, it really is a difficult decision."
Should the town decide to pursue making masks mandatory, it would require council to pass a bylaw. With council on hiatus until September, a special meeting would need to be called.
"At this point, what we can do is strongly recommend something. We have been making masks available to hand out to people that are using the transit system now and they're available at all our town public spaces. We've been leaving it up to individual residents to judge themselves accordingly."
Mayor Genung says he's been in constant contact with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi on that and other COVID-19 issues and has been following the issue closely.
"They are the trendsetters in the region, and a lot of our resident and day-trip tourists go back and forth in the outlying areas such as Calgary."
Currently, there are three known active cases of COVID-19 in Cochrane, matching peaks earlier in the pandemic.
He says Alberta Health officials forewarned municipalities there would be a climb with the relaxation of some of the guidelines.