Edmontonians divided on Alberta ending the mask mandate

Even after Alberta drops the provincial mask mandate and lifts all major restrictions on July 1, some Edmonton businesses will still require masks.

On Thursday, Alberta will enter stage three of its reopening plan. Masks will only be required by the provincial government in some instances like public transit and inside city-owned buildings.

Edmontonians who spoke to CTV News Edmonton were divided on the removal of the mask mandate. Some said they are looking forward to not wearing a mask while others feel a sense of hesitancy.

“I think it’s great that it’s gone. You’ll recognize people again, you’ll see friends you haven’t seen that you probably passed by with a mask or something,” said a resident on Whyte Avenue.

Others described a sense of uncertainty.

“I’ll probably still wear a mask. I feel more comfortable wearing a mask for safety reasons,” said a grocery store worker.

Despite masks no longer being mandatory, some local businesses said they feel a responsibility to keep their staff and community safe by requiring masks.

“We’re just not quite comfortable just yet. A number of businesses in the area are still going to insist on masking. I hope for not too terribly long, but until we see how the Delta variant progresses in this province,” said co-owner of Vivid Print Mark Wilson.

"We just like to err on the side of caution."

The Whyte Avenue business owner says his main concern is the Delta variant. For customers who either can’t wear a mask or refuse to do so, Vivid Print is offering online services and curb-side pick up.

“I am sure we will get some people who are in disagreement with our stance but ultimately, at the end of the day, we call the shots at our shop,” said Wilson.

Michael Kalmanovitch, owner and founder of Earth’s General Store, said the government is jumping too quickly.

“We as a private business are going to continue with our mask wearing policy. No mask no entry,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure that our staff are as well protected as possible and as well as our customers.”

In order to feel comfortable, Kalmanovitch wants to see numbers go down significantly.

“I care about my staff, I care about the customers that come into my store. The small number of people that are against wearing masks but also want to see the relaxation – well, you can be relaxed when you go to the corporate stores or most other places,” he said.

Paula Shyba, co-owner of Kind Icecream, said her store will continue the mask mandate for an additional two weeks. She said the decision was based on her staff feeling uncomfortable.

“We hope that people demonstrate some compassion and patience with different businesses. We are not the only one that is keeping a mask mandate and so everywhere you go might ask something different of customers,” she said.

PSYCHOLOGIST SAYS TO EASE IN TO NORMAL

Tara Boothey, a registered psychologist, said the two major emotions people are feeling are anger and anxiety.

“There are going to be people walking around looking for argument – who judge whatever we do whether we are wearing a mask or not,” she said.

Feeling anxious about the removal of the mask mandate is normal, said the psychologist.

“We want to make sure we are honouring our own sense of self, our own sense of safety. Safety first.”

She said we as individuals need to be aware of our own psychological and emotional safety. The psychologist recommended easing back into social situations.

“How can I connect with my people that I am comfortable with? What are the organizations or places that I feel safe and comfortable to go in?” she said.

She encouraged people to enjoy the outdoors and prepare for the “easing into a beautiful summer.”

Dr. Darren Markland, an intensive care unit doctor who believes it is too soon to drop restrictions, also recommended Albertans take things slow. 

“Going back to normal is where the problem lies and I think we still need to mask and be careful about these large events. I don’t think we are quite ready for them and I think we will be next year,” he said.

He recommends gathering in smaller cohorts until the virus has “run its course” through herd immunity and vaccinations.

“Come July 1, I would say get back together with your families. Start reconnecting with your friends who are vaccinated -- I think that’s what most of us want a good summer to be. Avoid these large get-togethers, we’re just not there yet but we will be,” said Markland.