Alberta courthouses to require masks as COVID-19 reopening begins

Ken Proudman poses for a photo outside the Alberta Law Courts, in Edmonton Friday May 15, 2020. Proudman is a partner and arbitrator at Barr Picard Law and a law instructor at the University of Alberta. Alberta courts have suspended all but emergency and urgent matters in response to COVID-19. Photo by David Bloom

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Anyone entering an Alberta courthouse will now be required to wear a face mask, the province’s three courts announced Monday.

As of July 6, masks will be required in courthouse public areas — including courtrooms if the presiding judge or master insists.

In a public notice Monday, the chief justices of the Alberta provincial court, Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal said the move would help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Courthouse security will provide masks to anyone who doesn’t have one of their own. At the Edmonton courthouse Monday, a sheriff at a table inside the main doors handed out blue surgical masks.

“It is now recognized by public health officials that people who are infected but are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic contribute to community spread of COVID-19,” the notice states. “The use of face masks can reduce the spread of infection.”

Alberta courts began to ramp up in-person hearings July 6 after shutting down all but emergency matters in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Since late March, the majority of hearings have been conducted by teleconferencing software.

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