BANFF – The first weekend of mandatory masks in Banff’s set areas was “overwhelmingly positive” according to reports from municipal officials.
Around 95 to 100 per cent of people complied with wearing masks from July 31 to Aug. 3 under the new temporary mask bylaw for the 100 and 200 blocks on Banff Avenue and Caribou Street and enclosed public spaces, said Silvio Adamo, Banff’s director of emergency management.
“This goes far beyond what my expectations were for the first weekend, ” Adamo said. “I had anecdotal conversations with a number of people on the streets, all thanking us for putting the bylaw in place; visitors that were travelling across country suggesting that we were the safest community that they had visited to date. It was overwhelmingly positive and I’m really happy about how things went.”
Town council passed the temporary bylaw on July 27 in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, making it mandatory for masks in the downtown core and indoor public spaces such as grocery stores, restaurants, art galleries and shopping malls, among others.
Over the long weekend, Adamo said Banff experienced around 85 per cent of the vehicle volume entering town from one year prior. On Sunday (Aug. 2), about 27,000 vehicles entered town and safety ambassadors handed out about 1,000 masks per day.
Jason Darrah, Banff's director of communications and marketing, said right from the first day, people had already taken to the new bylaw.
"At times, our Safety Ambassadors handing out free masks found it difficult to find anyone who didn’t have a mask, and when they did, it was usually because a mask had broken its strap or been discarded after being wet in the heat, or simply forgotten in the car," wrote Darrah, in an email.
Under the new bylaw, a $150 fine can be issued to anyone not wearing a mask in the required areas. However, Adamo said the six safety ambassadors, two peace officers and himself used the opportunity as a chance for more education.
“We had a couple incidents where folks absolutely refused [to wear a mask] so we gave them alternatives,” Adamo said. “We didn’t fine them; we gave them alternatives to walk around in other areas of the community that did not require a mask, but again, we also advised them that they had to wear a mask if they went into any indoor public area.”
The temporary bylaw on Banff Avenue is in effect until at least Sept. 11, at which time vehicle traffic is scheduled to return to the 100 and 200 blocks of downtown.
“At that point, council can decide whether they want to apply that bylaw to the sidewalk on Banff Avenue, as well as indoor public spaces,” Adamo said. “Obviously with this pandemic, which changes constantly, we’ll be looking at the medical data and the case load and speaking to our health authority to see when it’s appropriate to remove that mask bylaw.”