COVID-19 restrictions have kept Tyson Boyd’s business closed since March. He doesn’t like hearing indications that restrictions in Edmonton may get stricter.
“It’s unfortunate,” Boyd said. “We would like to see a little more light at the end of the tunnel and not see the target continuously move back.”
Boyd runs the Starlite Room, a live music venue in downtown Edmonton. Restrictions on large groups and singing mean he can’t afford to re-open the business until the province moves to Stage 3 of its relaunch plan.
At the moment, health officials aren’t even thinking about Stage 3. Rising COVID-19 infection rates in Edmonton have them considering tougher measures in the capital city.
April 1 marked Edmonton’s initial COVID-19 peak. On that day, 46 new cases were reported in the city. Numbers then dropped off and Alberta re-opened its economy.
In June, infections once again began to surge. On Tuesday, 158 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Edmonton. The total number of active cases in the city hit 966 on Tuesday.
A day earlier, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw warned, “We are determining if additional measures should be recommended in the city to bring transmission down.”
Hinshaw did not indicate what those measures could entail. Her office is speaking with the City of Edmonton to determine the next steps.
Dr. Craig Jenne is with the University of Calgary’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases. He said he’s not surprised with the warning.
“If it’s not time right now, it’s getting awfully close to that.”
Jenne said it’s unlikely we’ll see a shutdown similar to what happened in the spring.
“We have to look at where the cases are stemming from and looking at restrictions at those specific locations, instead of a blanket shutting everything down.”
Health officials have said COVID-19 in Edmonton is spreading at family gatherings and private parties. There are very few cases that spread in public spaces. Jenne said if we move to greater restrictions, it’s likely measures will target those gatherings.
Whether or not new formal restrictions are imposed, Jenne urges Edmontonians to use greater caution, especially with Thanksgiving approaching.
“We have to be careful. If there is a virus in the community, any gatherings run the risk of amplifying that.”
Other jurisdictions are also dealing with surging COVID-19 cases. Quebec reported 1,364 new cases on Tuesday.
Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters in Quebec City that the second wave of the novel coronavirus is different and evolving quickly, which is why the government has rolled out restrictions to cap the spread of the respiratory illness.
Younger people are contracting the virus and community transmission is gaining traction compared to the spring, leading to a surge in new infections, deaths and hospitalizations over the last week, he said.
“Let’s get the message through: people need to stay home,” Dubé said.
Ontario has labeled Toronto, Ottawa and the Peel region as COVID-19 hotspots and imposed new regulations.
The province has limited gathering sizes in those regions and restricted the number of people allowed in restaurants and gyms.
Premier Doug Ford has also urged people to limit close contact with members of their household, only.
Alberta has not implemented any similar measures. Premier Jason Kenney indicated a reluctance in any new measures.
“We also need to recognize that for every public health restriction, there are negative unintended consequences,” Kenney said.
The premier also urged people to take personal responsibility for their health and the health of others. Avoiding new regulations is in Albertans’ hands.
“What we need is for those people to take those guidelines very seriously and I think that’s what Dr. Hinshaw has been trying to convey.”
Opposition leader Rachel Notley agreed with health officials and Kenney that Albertans and specifically Edmontonians need to do more to curb COVID-19. Notley said we must do everything to avoid more painful restrictions.
Given the rising numbers in the capital city and across Alberta, she also wants more details from the province on what is anticipated.
“We are calling on the government to release updated modelling based on the numbers we’ve seen recently,” said Notley.