Hay River is the latest NWT community to make masks mandatory – for the time being – in certain municipal facilities.
At Monday’s council meeting, the Town of Hay River passed a “temporary policy” that makes masks necessary to use town facilities starting December 14.
Town administration will spend the next week creating separate rules for different town spaces – for example, determining how people will wear masks at the recreation centre due to the range of activities that take place there.
Mayor Kandis Jameson said in the meeting she has noticed town residents becoming complacent regarding pandemic public health restrictions.
“I guess we have become a little bit lax. We’re going into our ninth month and I think people have a false sense of security,” she said.
“We all know that we are the hub and most people will come through here.”
Specific rules and guidelines will be released before the new rules come into effect.
Also on Monday, the Town of Inuvik said mask-wearing in its facilities would be mandatory with immediate effect.
The two towns’ decisions were the latest in a series of moves toward enforcement of mask-wearing in communities across the Northwest Territories as Covid-19 cases spike in southern Canada.
“As rules for mask-wearing are different within each of our facilities, please check with our front desk staff upon entering and follow all additional signage and guidelines in place at town facilities,” a statement from the Town of Inuvik read.
Though the NWT has been little affected by the pandemic in comparison to most southern regions of Canada, towns are proactively implementing more protective measures.
In Fort Smith, masks became mandatory in municipal buildings on November 26.
“As the rate of infection continues to rise across Canada, we encourage all businesses and retail stores in Fort Smith to incorporate a mandatory mask-wearing policy in their place of business,” read the town’s notice.
“This added protection will help reassure the community that businesses are safe to access and continue to support local businesses.”
As first reported by the CBC, Fort Simpson unanimously passed a council resolution on November 23 to make masks more present in the village.
Sean Whelly, the mayor of Fort Simpson, said the village was recommending masks specifically in retail environments, which he called the village’s “main points of contact.”
“At five o’clock everyone goes out and starts shopping, and it was impossible to maintain that six-foot distance,” Whelly said.
“We really wanted to highlight the importance of people putting those masks on.”
Masks in Fort Simpson are not yet mandatory but are strongly encouraged.
The council resolution states: “Personal preference is not a valid reason to not wear a mask.”
Signs in place at Fort Simpson’s Northern Store and Unity Store state the village highly recommends the use of masks. Masks have been mandatory at the village’s liquor store since October 16.
Whelly said he believed the number of people wearing masks had increased by 40 to 50 percent since the resolution was enacted. Free masks will now be given out, which he expected to lead to a further increase in mask-wearing.
Sarah Sibley is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Cabin Radio.