Hospitality industry concerns with enforcement, patron response swirl around reinstatement of Edmonton's indoor mask mandate – Edmonton Journal

Edmonton hospitality venues are concerned the Friday reinstatement of the indoor mask mandate could lead to increased conflicts with guests.
In voicing some of the industry concerns with council’s Monday decision, Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community co-chair Kris Harvey called on residents to be respectful of businesses doing everything they can to stay open and keep patrons safe. Harvey said he is seeing increasing pushback from guests not wanting to follow the rules and is hopeful that enforcement authorities will step in to minimize conflicts with staff.
“It’s super, super challenging and a lot of us in the hospitality industry are on board with saying yes, there are further measures that need to be in place so we are able to have safe environments, but we do need to make sure that we’re not the ones holding all the responsibility to enforce it, police it and putting our staff and our businesses at risk,” Harvey said in an interview with Postmedia Tuesday. “We need to ask that customers are being respectful putting masks on when they’re not sitting and eating or drinking and being respectful of people around them.”
In a statement to Postmedia Tuesday, city spokesman Geoffrey Driscoll said peace and police officers will first focus on education and offering free masks if people aren’t complying but can then turn to issue $100 fines to enforce the mask mandate.
On Monday, Edmonton city council approved reinstating the indoor, public spaces mask requirement as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city during a fourth wave of the virus. The mandate, which will come into effect on Friday, applies to all publicly accessible facilities including entertainment venues, restaurants, retail stores and recreation centres as well as transit and vehicles for hire. Indoor facilities with vaccine policies in place, such as Rogers Place, will still be subject to the mask rule. It will remain in effect until the city’s active case rate drops below 100 per 100,000 people for 10 consecutive days or until it is scheduled to be repealed on Dec. 31.
Old Strathcona Business Association executive director Cherie Klassen said businesses are still seeking clarity after the surprise Monday decision, including what this means for entertainment venues with bands and singers booked and if they will be subject to the mandate.
Driscoll said performers will have to wear a face covering unless they are in an “employee-only area” like a stage with a physical barrier and distancing between themselves and the audience, such as Plexiglas.
Other exemptions to the mask rule include those under the age of two, people who are unable to place or remove a mask without assistance, when engaging in water activity or physical exercise, when consuming food or drink in a designated area and when engaging in services that require the temporary removal of a mask, such as the dentist. The city mandate also doesn’t apply to schools, hospitals and child-care facilities.
Following Edmonton’s decision Monday, bordering municipalities in the region are looking at their mask policies moving forward. Strathcona County council will be meeting Wednesday at 2 p.m. to discuss masking and other COVID-19 response measures, Mayor Rod Frank said Tuesday afternoon on social media.
In St. Albert, Mayor Cathy Heron said she plans to call a special council meeting to debate reimplementing a mask mandate. The date of this meeting hasn’t been determined.
“I understand we all cross the municipal boundaries so that needs to be accounted for,” Heron said on Twitter Monday night. “A regional approach to such things as masks eliminates confusion.”
The active case rate in both municipalities is more than 100 per 100,000 people.
There are currently 2,542 cases of COVID-19 in Edmonton with an active case rate of 244.9. 
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