Calgary emergency management chief says Alberta needs stricter COVID-19 measures

Click to play video 'CEMA chief Tom Sampson pushes for more provincial COVID-19 restrictions' CEMA chief Tom Sampson pushes for more provincial COVID-19 restrictions
Calgary’s emergency management agency chief says he believes the province should put more restrictions in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. As Bindu Suri reports, Mayor Naheed Nenshi is also sounding the alarm. – Nov 16, 2020

Calgary’s emergency management chief is among those who believe the Alberta government needs to implement stricter measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Tom Sampson said he is concerned the temporary restrictions issued by the province last week will not have an impact on the increase of coronavirus cases in Alberta and will only result in a prolonged period of restrictions.

“I’m a proponent of a more vigorous position, and doing it sooner rather than later, so that we can be back up and running and have our economy ticking along for the Christmas season,” Sampson said.

“I know it’s terribly inconvenient, but I think we need to do that — a short, sharp break.”

On Sunday, 991 additional cases and a total of 9,618 active cases were reported in the province. A day earlier, 1,026 were reported in Alberta, which was the highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.

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WATCH: In an interview with Mercedes Stephenson on The West Block, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he believes there should be smart restrictions.

Click to play video 'COVID-19 Restrictions ‘feel a bit random’ for Calgarians: Mayor Nenshi' COVID-19 Restrictions ‘feel a bit random’ for Calgarians: Mayor Nenshi
COVID-19 Restrictions ‘feel a bit random’ for Calgarians: Mayor Nenshi – Nov 15, 2020

On Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney announced new restrictions for two weeks.

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Indoor group fitness classes and team sports are prohibited from Nov. 13-27 in the Calgary area, Edmonton area, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge and Red Deer.

Restaurants and pubs in those areas, as well as areas on “enhanced status,” must stop liquor sales by 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m. This measure is also be in place from Nov. 13-27.

Kenney also said amateur singing, dancing and theatre groups also have to take a two-week break.

READ MORE: Virologist says Albertans should avoid all in-person socializing as COVID-19 cases rise

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Sampson said he spoke to University of Calgary epidemiologists who have told him it would take 28 days to bend the curve of the spread of the virus. Sampson suggests even suspending in-person classes for students across the province if necessary.

“Let’s do it and get the numbers down and then we can kick back into gear,” he said. “Then hopefully we’ve learned a bit of a lesson that we just can’t do the things that we’re doing and expect COVID numbers to stay low.”

Sampson said Mayor Naheed Nenshi sent a letter to the province Friday, requesting that Calgary peace officers be given the authority to fine individuals who are blatantly violating mandatory COVID-19 restrictions.

READ MORE: Alberta reports record daily high of 1,026 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths Saturday

“We’ve worked a long time on the educational route, but we’re at the point where we’re going to effect our economy, we’re going to effect our people,” Sampson said. “It’s very unfortunate, but I feel it’s a time for us to step up and deal with those people who are frankly damaging things for everybody else.”

Sampson said as a paramedic he has serious concerns about the toll the rise of COVID cases are having on hospitals.

“Our professionals in the field every day, the docs and the nurses who are on the frontline, they’re seeing it every day. I’m just simply supporting their position that we’re perhaps on the edge of trouble and we need to respond strongly now.”

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READ MORE: Kenney warns stronger measures could be in store for Alberta as COVID-19 cases rise by 991 Sunday

During an interview on The Roy Green Show Sunday, the premier said more restrictive measures could be instituted if Albertans do not adhere to the voluntary policies currently in place.

He also said the request for Albertans to stop gathering at home could become an actual order as at-home transmissions rise.

“If we continue to see evidence of large at-home parties, typically involving younger people trying to blow off steam… we may have to start enforcing the public health order — bringing in an actual order instead of a recommendation against at-home socializing, (with) that being our largest vector of transmission.”

However, Kenney continued to stress personal responsibility in the province.

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“We’re not going to enforce our way out of this, we’re not going to turn Alberta into a police state,” Kenney said.