COVID-19 - Face Coverings Bylaw: Questions & Answers
Want to know if a mask is required for your indoor activity or for your business? Below, we have outlined rules and guidelines for some common scenarios.
For more information about the bylaw including when it will be active, how it will work and what are the exceptions, see COVID-19 Face Coverings Bylaw.
To see all of our COVID-19 information and updates, visit City of Calgary COVID-19.
Frequently asked questions
People are expected to wear a face covering in any part of an enclosed space to which the public can readily access. The bylaw excludes premises for which there is an enrolment or membership requirement such as daycares.
The rule of thumb is, if the public does not have access to it, it will be exempt under the bylaw.
The bylaw requires businesses to display a prescribed sign at a location that is visible to a person immediately upon entering the public premises or public vehicle.
The business is not expected to evict a customer or refuse service to people who are not complying with the bylaw.
Calgarians must wear a face covering in a public indoor space or a public vehicle, unless the person is separated from others by an installed screen, shield or other barrier. (For example, plexi glass)
Yes, a face covering is required in indoor public places, even when physical distancing can be achieved. Physical distancing in indoor public spaces is inconsistent and unpredictable and part of why this temporary bylaw is necessary.
The focus of this bylaw is on education first, with enforcement as a last resort option to be deployed only as needed. The approach is largely around communication and education for the public to better understand that wearing face coverings is the right thing to do.
Shared enforcement responsibilities are between Community Peace Officers, the Calgary Police Service, Livery Inspectors and Calgary Transit Peace Officers.
Employers, operators or proprietors are not expected to enforce this bylaw. The bylaw was drafted to minimize the chance of conflict and provide a safe environment for all.
Those exempt will not be required to provide proof of exemption.
Places of worship would be included in the bylaw definition of a public premise, as they are enclosed buildings that members of the public have access to. Those attending places of worship are permitted to temporarily remove their face covering to provide or receive service, such as to receive communion.
However, if a place of worship closes its doors to the public for a private event (for example a wedding), it is not a public premises during the event and therefore attendees will not have to wear face coverings.
Would it be correct to assume public meetings, such as condo board meetings, would be exempt from the bylaw?
A meeting such as a condo board meeting would not be included in the definition of a public premises, as members of the public would not have access, therefore participants would not be required under the bylaw to wear face coverings.
Are vehicle for-hire companies like Uber and cab companies included in the transportation that must follow the bylaw?
Passengers of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) and taxis require a face covering as both are defined under the bylaw as a public vehicle.
In the bylaw, a ‘public vehicle’ includes a bus, LRT vehicle, taxi and any vehicle that is used to transport members of the public for a fee.
Drivers that are separated from their passengers by an installed screen, shield or other barrier are not required to wear face coverings.
Gyms / Sports centres / Fitness studios
People actively engaging in athletic or fitness activities in gyms, sports centres and fitness studios would be exempt from the bylaw. However, if the facility is accessible to the public, people who are not engaging in such activities would have to wear a face covering.
People are expected to wear a face covering in any part of an enclosed space to which the public can readily access.
The bylaw excludes premises for which there is an enrolment or membership requirement such as daycares.
Because daycares are not available to members of the public, it would be considered private and therefore the bylaw would not apply.
Note: The City of Calgary face covering bylaw does not include requirements for schools. Please visit the Government of Alberta website or contact your local schools board for more information on face covering policies within schools
The Province of Alberta would be in the best position to mandate the wearing of face coverings or masks by the general public. However, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta has indicated that mandatory face coverings could be a policy implemented by local governments based on local circumstances.
Since the province has not yet enacted a mandate, Council has the authority through the Municipal Government Act to enact bylaws with respect to safety, health and welfare of people and the protection of people and property along with enacting bylaws related to businesses.
The City continues to education Calgarians on the three critical measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Even with continued education and strong recommendations from all orders of government, only 35 per cent of Calgarians reported ‘always’ wearing face coverings in public or confined spaces prior to the temporary bylaw. This is lower than the desired critical mass of 80 per cent of citizen that are regularly wearing face coverings that is required to contain community spread.
Since the bylaw has come into effect, 89 per cent of Calgarians report wearing a face covering in public.
Prior to the enactment of the temporary bylaw, 74 per cent of Calgarians either strongly or somewhat supported making face masks/coverings mandatory.
Since the bylaw went into effect, a Citizen Perspectives COVID-19 snapshot survey (conducted beginning August 18, 2020), indicates that 89 per cent of respondents report always wearing a face covering in public and confined spaces. The survey also indicates that the majority of Calgarians (88 per cent) support the Temporary Face Coverings Bylaw.
The approach is intended to keep businesses open and to help mitigate a potential resurgence.
Right now is the ideal time to take action. The wearing of face coverings is an additional measure that can be taken to help mitigate a potential resurgence as being experienced in other parts of the world.
The World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Alberta Health all indicate that the highest risk activities are those that take place indoors and in spaces where people spend extended periods of time in close proximity with poor air circulation. We are beginning to see additional challenges as cooler weather limits our ability to gather and engage in activities outside and children returning to school.
The bylaw mandating the wearing of face coverings will not only restore confidence in the community who don’t feel safe when those around them are not wearing masks, it also serves as a visual reminder that the pandemic continues to remain a health risk.
Administration recommended the bylaw remain in effect with scheduled reporting to Council as the best approach to address potential amendments or the repeal of the bylaw. Administration anticipates the bylaw would most likely be repealed under one or more of the following three scenarios:
- Local metrics, including transmission rates (reproductive value), infections, hospitalizations, patients in intensive care, and deaths are at a sufficiently low level that medical experts agree that face coverings are no longer a recommended tool in mitigating the spread of the virus.
- A safe and effective vaccine has seen sufficient local levels of uptake, or a safe and effective treatment has been identified, such that medical experts agree that face coverings are no longer recommended in in mitigating the spread of the virus.
- Medical experts, including Alberta Health Services, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the World Health Organization retract their messaging on the use of face coverings, based on evidence, in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
In the event there is a sudden reversal in the medical advice that face coverings are no longer beneficial, Administration would return to the next possible Council meeting to have the bylaw repealed.
Since the recent decision issued by Dr. Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health, it is now mandatory that masks be worn in the common areas of condos and apartments.
The bylaw defines face coverings that inclusively cover the mouth, nose and chin, ensuring a barrier that limits the transmission of infectious respiratory droplets, aligning with CDC recommendations.
A face shield only qualifies under the definition of a face covering if it fully covers the mouth, nose, and chin. Face shields that do not fully wrap around the face and chin do not qualify as they are not effective in limiting the spread of infectious respiratory droplets.
I’ve experienced an uncomfortable circumstance or was denied a service for not wearing a mask and I have a medical exemption. What can I do?
It is important to note that proof is not required for someone that has an exception, as we wanted to ensure the bylaw was easy for citizens and business owners to follow. Businesses are not required to deny anyone entry under the bylaw, but can enact their own policies in their establishments.
Calgarians are encouraged to ask if someone is unable to wear a face covering, before making assumptions. Administration informed both the public and businesses of the temporary face coverings bylaw requirements and emphasized exemptions, so businesses understand that they are not obligated to enforce the bylaw.
You can call 311 to file any concerns related to the bylaw.