Parksville council votes to keep masks optional in meetings

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Parksville city council will continue to meet in person with face masks optional. 

“We tried the Zoom process and it lacked in so many ways,” said Coun. Doug O’Brien. “It made us ineffective to do our governance model properly through lack of proper communication.”

Council voted 6 – 1 against Coun. Marilyn Wilson’s motion to make masks mandatory for councillors in meetings or consider a return to virtual meetings via Zoom. City staff are already required to wear masks in the building.

Wilson said she made the motion because of a recent update about the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19 indoors by Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.

Coun. Teresa Patterson, who wore a mask in council, said she felt safe in the forum because it is a large space with a high ceiling and good airflow.

Councillors already wear masks when in transition areas between their work stations and the forum, according to Coun. Adam Fras.

A release from Emergency Management Oceanside (EMO) and the City of Parksville said “COVID-19 continues to spread in all health regions in B.C., including Vancouver Island, as is evidenced by the increased case counts over the past two weeks.”

Coun. Al Greir questioned the need to wear masks during a meeting if members go out for a beer together after. He added he has trouble wearing them and does not think there is a high risk of transmission in Parksville.

“I happen to feel very comfortable with the situation as it is and I’m probably the oldest and the most compromised of all,” said Mayor Ed Mayne. He added he thought the Zoom meetings were less effective than convening in person. 

Keeva Kehler, chief administrative officer (CAO), said staff could arrange for delegations and city staff to present to council via Zoom in the future. 

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 7. 

There are currently 60 active cases of COVID-19 in the central region of Vancouver Island, according to Island Health. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada now advises wearing non-medical masks with three layers.

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