LETHBRIDGE, AB – Wearing a face covering has been one of the most controversial issues since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a third time now, Lethbridge’s temporary face-covering bylaw has been extended, this time until the end of 2021.

City Council debated the resolution in length Tuesday afternoon and voted 6-3 in favour of extending it.

Councillor Joe Mauro was one of those who said no to extending the bylaw, saying the provincial masking mandate in place right now supersedes the local bylaw so there’s no point in keeping it. He wanted Council to rely on the provincial experts. “There is a provincial mandatory law and that’s what we need to follow. We don’t need our mask bylaw.”

The majority of Council however felt otherwise.

If the provincial situation changes in the months ahead, Councillors do have the opportunity to bring back a resolution to cancel the local masking bylaw before December 31st.

Councillors who support the bylaw argued this is another layer of protection for Lethbridge residents that if the province was to cancel its current mandate, this local bylaw would then automatically kick in.

Bylaw 6239 was brought in last August to curb the spread of COVID-19. Some people have pointed to the fact Lethbridge’s COVID-19 active case count was at zero when the bylaw was put in place. Councillor Rob Miyashiro said Tuesday that our case numbers in Lethbridge “are horrible right now.” He says mask-wearing is proven to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Whether it’s from family gatherings, whether it’s from faith groups meeting, or kids playing on the playground, it doesn’t matter what the cause is. If people are following the right steps we are going to reduce the numbers or help stop the spread,” Miyashiro told Council.

Mayor Chris Spearman also voted in favour of extending the bylaw, but took it a step further asking police to start enforcing this.

“The time for education has passed,” says Spearman. “Not only do we need a mask law, not only do we need all of Council supporting a mask law, we do need it to be enforced. We need to have strong bylaw. In terms of our alignment with the province, yes we need to look at it, we need to make sure our penalties are just as high as those in the province and right now I believe they are not. We should pass this bylaw and we should ask our police force to enforce it.”