By Ian Croft
With Alberta having the third highest rate of COVID-19 cases across all of Canada the United Conservative Party has implemented new measures to try and stop the spread as well as lowering the curve.
“Operators and workers are trying their best to contain the spread and continue providing care but the numbers are very troubling,” said Premier Jason Kenney on Nov. 12 during the COVID-19 update livestream. “The total number of active COVID cases in continuing care across the province more than quadrupled from less than 100 in the first of October to over 400 at the beginning of this month. The number of exposures at school also rises as it spreads across the broader community and while the work of students, parents, staff and teachers has been fantastic to prevent onward spread there is an ongoing challenge as the numbers rise throughout the broader province.”
“And we are at a dangerous juncture in our province. These numbers I’ve just shared add up to one unavoidable fact the growing number of hospitalizations; ECU emissions are challenging our ability to continue to deliver non-emergency health services that Albertans depend on and this of course affects everyone, it’s not just an Edmonton problem or Calgary problem there are currently 55 communities in the enhance measure status.”
After his opening comments, Kenney then announced the new measures, including a 50-person limit on wedding ceremonies and funeral services. All faith-based organizations should limit attendance at services to one-third of capacity. It is strongly recommended that no social gatherings occur in private homes.
It is also strongly recommended that Albertans living in areas under enhanced precautions not move social gatherings to neighbouring communities with lower rates.
Employers should reduce the number of staff in office buildings at any one time wherever possible.
Mask use is encouraged in all indoor workplaces, and a limit of three cohorts, plus child care. Critically, there is now a 15 person limit on family and social gatherings.
These new measures are implemented alongside any or all existing measures within all enhanced zones which currently includes Taber and the MD of Taber. Three more additional measures are being implemented for a span of two weeks starting on Nov. 13 and ending on Nov. 27.
This includes restaurants and pubs stopping selling liquor at 10 p.m., and will close by 11 p.m. There is a ban on all indoor group fitness and team sports activity. There is also a ban on all group based performing arts including singing and dancing.
Both of the indoor bans on sports and performing arts are only applicable to Calgary and surrounding area, Edmonton and surrounding area, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge and Red Deer.
It was also stated that if these measures were not effective more restrictive measures will be implemented if necessary.
In Alberta there has been 860 new cases of COVID-19 identified in the past 24 hours as of the time of writing this article and over 12,000 new tests were completed. The active number of COVID-19 cases in Alberta has now reached 10,031 with 264 individuals hospitalized and 57 of them in ICU. Taber and surrounding municipal district has had a total of 132 cases 71 of which are still currently active. Canada as a whole has now had 302,192 cases of COVID-19 identified with 240,287 individuals recovered.
Before these new measures were presented The Business Monitor released a survey on Nov. 4 stating that 64 per cent of all businesses in Canada were in favour of having tighter restrictions, with Alberta being the only main outlier. Only 29 per cent of businesses in Alberta were in favour of having tighter restrictions where 45 per cent of businesses wanted the restrictions to be eased. The remaining 23 per cent of businesses in Alberta were in favour of having no changes implemented.
Despite these new measures NDP Leader Rachel Notley called out Kenney claiming that the measures that he is implementing are not strict enough and too late to have his desired effect.
“I extend my deepest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic. Our hearts go out to all Albertans who have been impacted by this pandemic. The threat of COVID-19 in Alberta today is greater than in it was in April. The threat is very real. While other jurisdictions, including Ontario and B.C. today, have presented updated modelling and publicly released frameworks for when changes to public health measures will be triggered, Jason Kenney is hiding the data and blaming Albertans for his own failure to act,”
“What we learned today is the UCP have blown past their own previously stated triggers by 50 per cent and only now are we getting the most limited of actions. There were several things missing from today‚ announcement. Where are the supports for seniors in long-term care? Where are the supports for small businesses that are now closing for two weeks? Where are the supports for workers if they become sick?”
“Today, the Premier said the virus is starting to win. That‚ because he‚ refused to put up a fight. He, done nothing for weeks and now claims to be taking, targeted measures‚ by implementing temporary restrictions on sporting events and the arts. We have no way of knowing if that will be enough, given that he‚ hiding information.”
“Here‚ what we do know, we can identify the source of 67 per cent of COVID-19 cases. The UCP have been sitting on their hands, refusing to hire contact tracers for weeks, they only just posted for new positions last week. This week, in multiple separate instances, hundreds of front-line physicians have come forward to demand action from this government. We cannot ignore the alarm bells from the front-line.”
“Two weeks ago, I proposed six, practical, non-restrictive measures the government could have implemented that would have helped reduce cases and keep our economy running. The Premier did nothing. Alberta is very close to becoming the most dangerous place in the country to live with COVID. We must do better.”
“The six measures that Notley suggested are to reverse the plan to fire 11,000 front line hospital workers, increase the speed of testing and updating the public on the new number of cases, hire more than 1,300 contact tracers, immediately make the national COVID-19 tracking app available in Alberta, introduce an index that would allow businesses to either move up or down the relaunch strategy, and finally develop a staffing plan for continuing care facilities and publish it to the public.”
Kathryn Scott, a registered nurse from Taber, had this to say when asked about the new measures that are being put in place.
“I generally wish people had more common sense. I don’t like government intervening in my life. And I do feel like while many have been following these kinds of precautions the whole time, there is a percentage of people that aren‚ following it due to various reasons like ‘COVID fatigue’ – which is very real. What I see in the real world is six months ago people were very diligent with cleaning and disinfecting (at businesses, fuel stations, etc.) and now many aren‚ following the simplest of things (hand washing and only touch your face after you washed/sanitized your hands). I am a realist, though, and know most people won‚ do things unless it is forced on them. So I guess I understand the reason for the measures, and I feel the only people that would be upset are people that weren‚ following the recommended measures in the first place. In my home we will basically continue living life as we have for the last eight or so months, because we have been following all of the evidence-based recommendations.”