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Calgary will not follow provincial recommendations on the mandatory wearing of masks if all COVID-19 health restrictions in Alberta are lifted on July 1.

Alberta met its Phase 3 targets earlier this month of 70 percent of the population receiving a first dose of vaccine and low hospital admission rates.

After a lengthy session on Monday, the city council finally passed a modified recommendation to keep the mask requirement in force until July 5th.

At this point, hospital admissions levels, infection rates, second-dose vaccinations, and positivity rates are all taken into account to allow for the bylaws to be repealed “ASAP” as long as it is deemed safe.

The city administration had recommended that the statute be kept in force until July 31st.

“I am super optimistic. I want to get rid of that, ”said Mayor Naheed Nenshi during the debate.

“I always thought we wouldn’t get rid of it until September. I am convinced that we can get rid of it in July. The question is when exactly do we want to do this? “

The number of Calgarians who received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is 75.6 percent, above the provincial average, while more than 29 percent are fully vaccinated.

“Although things have improved overall and the light is at the end of the tunnel and it is getting closer every day, there are still some things to worry about,” said Susan Henry, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency .

“In particular, we are observing the uncertainty surrounding the Delta variant and the relatively low second-dose coverage that we have in our community.”

Other recommendations on the table included repealing the statutes when 75 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, waiting for the statutes to expire in December, or repealing the provisional statute on July 1.

Matt Zabloski, a business strategist at City of Calgary Community Standards, said medical experts across Canada and Alberta have given varying estimates of the most appropriate number to avoid using face coverings.

He said the spectrum ranges from the 70 percent of initial vaccinations announced by the Alberta government to 75 percent that are fully vaccinated by the Canadian health department.

“The lack of consensus among medical experts on the appropriate metric for repeal, coupled with circumstances such as the location of most of the Alberta Delta variant in the city and public opinion that only applies to Calgary, provide solid grounds for cautious optimism Made in Calgary approach, ”Zabloski told the council.

“It is a least damaging approach to an unsafe situation that provides public health protection without harming the economy.”

But dr. Raj Bhardwaj, a Calgary emergency doctor, asked the council to keep the mask statute in place, saying it provided an extra layer of protection.

He said there are around 475,000 Calgarians, many of them under the age of 12, who could not be vaccinated.

“Virtually all provincial measures that help protect Calgarians will cease in 10 days,” said Bhardwaj.

Bhardwaj wanted the statutes to stay in effect, at least until mid or late August, when the effects of the Calgary Stampede become apparent. He said no one wants to see a return to all restrictions when the number of new cases and hospitalization rates rise.

“Please think about what it would mean for you to reactivate the mask statutes. We have misjudged this virus in the past. We reacted less quickly than we could have done. ”

Earlier this month, Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney said he hoped the cities of Edmonton and Calgary would stay in line with the province when it comes to eventually lifting mask restrictions linked to COVID-19.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson has indicated that the city will exercise great caution before the mask statutes can be completely repealed.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 21, 2021.

Bill Graveland, the Canadian press

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