Edmonton says it will no longer give out mask exemption cards
Edmonton has suspended distribution of mask exemption cards, saying that it needs to re-evaluate its program.
This past weekend, the city began handing out exemption cards in seven different recreation centres to anybody who asked for one. In other words, no supporting medical documents were required to prove an exemption from wearing masks was really necessary.
This sparked massive backlash from concerned residents and businesses organizations who were worried that those not needing an exemption for medical purposes would abuse the system. Others added that the easily obtainable cards made the mandatory mask bylaw completely irrelevant.
Dear @CityofEdmonton @doniveson @JonDziadyk do NOT say that you have a mandatory mask policy in Edmonton anymore. Now that you are offering mask exemption cards, easily obtained, easily photocopied, we are absolutely back to square one. Thanks for nothing. #yeg #maskupcanada— Donna McKinnon (@illustratedword) August 10, 2020
Among those concerned about the system was Mayor Don Iverson who said that he supported Edmontonians unable to wear a mask but was worried about how exemption cards were being distributed.
I, like many of you, have some concerns/questions with the exemption cards and how they are being distributed. I'll be asking questions during Thursday's Emergency Advisory Committee including how, if at all, we can ensure people are not abusing the system. #COVID19AB #COVID19— Don Iveson (@doniveson) August 12, 2020
As a result, on Wednesday, the city released a statement saying that they have stopped distributing the cards and that they are trusting that those with a legitimate need for an exemption have been able to get one.
"We are reassessing the program and distribution mechanisms for those with a legitimate exemption and who may want a card but were unable to pick one up in person," the statement reads.
While they said that they are unsure when an alternate program will be in place and when cards will be available again, those that were distributed between Aug. 8 and Aug. 12 remain valid.
"We appreciate the public's understanding and patience as we make adjustments to how the City supports those with exemptions..."
Edmonton's mandatory mask bylaw came into effect on Aug. 1 in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of Tuesday, though, approximately 3,900 exemption cards were dooled out.
In response, city administration said that about 85 per cent of residents were respecting the mandatory mask bylaw.
"We trust that compassion will continue as those who can wear masks do so, and those who cannot are treated with understanding," COVID-19 task force chair David Aitken said at City Hall.
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