Face coverings will be mandatory on Yellowknife buses from August 31, city council ruled on Monday, but a similar proposal for city facilities has been dropped for the time being.
Mayor Rebecca Alty said the city had heard from the chief public health officer that capacity on buses could be increased from nine passengers without masks to 25 if masks are mandatory.
However, no such guidance has been received for city buildings yet. Councillors therefore decided to delete that part of the new bylaw until such time as more advice is received.
“If city facilities are approved by the chief public health officer to expand capacity due to mask use in future, council can amend the bylaw as needed. I think council is flexible enough,” said Councillor Julian Morse.
From August 31, when many students will return to school, up to 25 people will be able to ride each bus as long as they wear non-medical masks.
Passengers boarding a bus without a mask will face a $100 fine, although it’s not clear how that would be enforced. Both councillors and staff emphasized their desire for education rather than enforcement to be central to the policy.
Deleting the part of the bylaw related to city facilities doesn’t mean councillors have decided there is less risk at facilities.
Instead, it reflects the fact that the chief public health officer has yet to give the city guidance on how requiring masks inside facilities would alter the capacity allowed.
Councillors had previously said increasing capacity was a key reason for making masks mandatory in some settings – allowing more people to use buses and take advantage of facilities.
Councillors Niels Konge said facilities should be kept in the bylaw as it was “reasonable and logical” that the chief public health officer would soon issue guidance similar to that for buses, allowing building capacity to leap.
But the majority of his colleagues ultimately disagreed.
The amended bylaw, relating only to city buses, was approved with only Councillor Rommel Silverio opposed. (Konge, relenting, said something was better than nothing.)
Alty said transit would have been “chaos” this coming Monday if capacity had not increased from nine people per bus as schools returned, with more downtown workers also gradually returning to their offices.