By Vicki Winger, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Whitecourt Press
As of 4 p.m on Nov. 9, Alberta Health Services placed the Municipal District of Greenview and all municipalities within its boundaries under a watch status due to the number of COVID cases.
Fox Creek has two active cases; however, the town is included in the watch status as it falls within the MD’s most southern boundary. Coun. Sheila Gilmour brought up an important issue when she commented on the voluntary measures put in place by AHS for those communities under the watch status.
“While it’s not mandated to wear a face covering, we need to take a more proactive approach, not reactive when it comes to the safety of our community and come up with our bylaws regarding wearing a mask.”
Coun. Burridge echoed her concerns by adding, “The current two cases are two too many given our population count is not near what it was at the beginning of the year. We are a very close-knit community, and it won’t take much for the virus to spread if we don’t control it now.”
Council expedited the new face-covering bylaw with the first, second, third and final reading on Nov. 9 under the Municipal Government Act, RSA cM-16. It is defined as a council of a municipality that may pass bylaws concerning people’s safety, health, welfare, and property protection. The bylaw is limited to the mandatory wearing of a face covering at all indoor public places and public vehicles, as physical distancing in these places may not always be possible.
In a media statement, the Town of Fox Creek Council stated, “Enacting this bylaw was not an easy decision to make, and it required much deliberation on when and how it should be implemented. It was ultimately agreed upon by council that the Town of Fox Creek needs to lead by example and be proactive, instead of reactive, in our efforts to minimize the impact of COVID-19 in our community. We believe that wearing a mask, though not ideal, is a small price to pay to limit exposure and help protect our fellow residents, especially those at higher risk of illness, from the virus. Everyone should remember that this bylaw is temporary. By following the Province and Alberta Health Service’s guidelines, we will reduce the spread of the virus and cases in our community. By working together, we will not only stand a better chance against COVID-19 but will also be able to rescind this bylaw sooner.”
A few examples of where masks must be worn are in any business where services and or goods are offered for sale to the public, churches or place of worship, community centres, and common areas of hotels. Other areas include lobbies, elevators, meeting rooms and other common use facilities. There are, however, a few exemptions to wearing a face covering as outlined in the bylaw. Children under five years of age are exempt, as are persons with mental or physical concerns or limitations. The same would apply for those consuming food or drink in designated seating areas and those who are engaged in water activities or physical exercise.
As stated in the new bylaw, anyone who contravenes or fails to comply with any provisions of the Temporary Mandatory Face Covering bylaw is guilty of an offence according to this bylaw. Under schedule A, those who do not comply face a $100 fine. Businesses will also face a $200 fine for failure to display the prescribed signage as set out in Schedule B of the bylaw. Copies of the complete bylaw and additional signs may be picked up at the town office or found on the Town of Fox Creek website.