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Beachgoers crowd Sylvan Lake despite pandemic rules: ‘COVID-19 is still here’

Beachgoers crowd Sylvan Lake despite pandemic rules
WATCH ABOVE: The town of Sylvan Lake was overrun by sun-seekers Saturday. Photos on social media showed a packed beach with an apparent lack of regard for public safety measures. Nicole Stillger reports.

A photo of Sylvan Lake, Alta., shared on Twitter Saturday is gaining attention online — for the lack of attention beachgoers paid to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The photo shows a packed beach, with some groups clearly not adhering to social distancing rules. The province currently recommends people stay a minimum of two metres away from one another.

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Alberta Health told Global News Sunday that Albertans should “be respectful of others and follow all the public guidance we have provided.”

“We continue to recommend that all Albertans physically distance whenever possible, including when at the beach,” said Alberta Health assistant communications director Tom McMillan in an email.

“COVID-19 is still here and we all must do our part in limiting the spread.”

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McMillan added that AHS public health inspectors and police agencies can respond to those breaking the rules if there are public complaints.

On Sunday,  Sylvan Lake resident Greg Dickson told Global News he was shocked at how many visitors showed up to the community the day before.

“I’d say we had double the amount of people I ever saw on Canada Day here which is a big day here,” Greg Dickson said.

Dickson added that he was in disbelief at the number of people who seemed to throw caution to the wind.

“I was dumbfounded,” he said.

“I thought if I tried to describe it, no one would believe me.”

Other shots from different angles at Sylvan Lake show a similar lack of spacing between groups.

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NDP MLA Janis Irwin responded to the photos, saying on Twitter that it reminded her of recent stories about crowded beaches in the U.S.

“Every time I see a pic of a crowded beach in the States, I shake my head at those foolish Americans,” Irwin said. “But here we are.

“This is in Alberta. We must do better, friends.”

Sylvan Lake is located about 25 kilometres west of Red Deer.

Read more: Video shows crowds gathering in Wasaga Beach, Ont., on Canada Day: ‘It was just crazy’

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In the latest update on COVID-19 in Alberta on Friday, the province had confirmed 77 new cases, bringing the total number of active ones to 592. The province no longer updates infection numbers on the weekend and will provide new statistics on Monday.

So far, 160 Albertans have died due to COVID-19.