No solution yet for Edmonton’s mask exemption card program, two weeks after distribution halted

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As residents wait for a decision on the program — which Laughlin previously said he was hoping would be made last week — complaints are increasing. The city has received an increase in calls about non-compliance of the mask bylaw, specifically about businesses where employees are wearing face shields instead of masks, Laughlin said. Face shields aren’t considered appropriate under the bylaw if they don’t cover the chin.

There has also been an increase in complaints from residents with legitimate exemptions under the bylaw who are being turned away from businesses, Laughlin said. Some residents with these exemptions also haven’t had the opportunity to pick up an exemption card since distribution ended after only four days.

The exemption cards were brought in by the city just one week after the mandatory mask bylaw came into effect Aug. 1 after a slew of concerns from exempt residents being turned away from businesses for not wearing a mask. People who are unable to place or remove a face covering without assistance or have a physical or mental limitation that prevents them from wearing a mask are exempt under the bylaw.

But the initial program allowed for residents to pick up exemption cards at seven recreation centres without providing any proof of exemption, leading to misuse. Council heard that compliance of the mask bylaw is around 96 per cent across all facilities.

Much of Thursday’s meeting focused on the urgency to find housing support for the city’s homeless population after Downtown Ward 6 Coun. Scott McKeen voiced his frustration. Camp Pekiwewin in Rossdale continues to support the community with 170 tents on site, but McKeen said urgent permanent, supportive housing is required with support from the provincial and federal governments.

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