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COVID-19 outreach program begins in Edmonton areas hit hard by coronavirus

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 outreach program begins in Edmonton neighbourhoods hit hard by virus' COVID-19 outreach program begins in Edmonton neighbourhoods hit hard by virus
COVID care teams are visiting Edmonton areas hit hardest by the pandemic. Morgan Black explains why information is a powerful tool in the fight against the virus – Dec 24, 2020

Alberta’s COVID-19 care teams have begun to work their way through the parts of Edmonton hardest hit by the pandemic.

Alberta Health Services has five zones, which are further broken down into local geographic areas (LGAs). Eleven of them — nine in Edmonton and two in Calgary — have been identified as having “the highest rates of COVID[-19] transmission in the province,” according to data from Alberta Health and the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the care team visited community members in the of areas of Castle Downs, Northgate and Mill Woods West.

COVID care teams are meant to provide another layer of support to those areas experiencing high rates of the virus.

Read more: Alberta expanding free self-isolation hotel program, sending COVID-19 care teams to hard-hit communities

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Justice Minister and Edmonton MLA Kaycee Madu said community outreach is a key component to fighting COVID-19.

“The problem is not that Albertans in these communities (don’t) want to comply with Alberta Heath Services. It’s that they are facing all kinds of challenges,” he said.

“People are suffering. Many people are being challenged by language barriers, technological barriers and literacy barriers.”

COVID-19 care packages include sanitizer, face masks and pamphlets in ten languages that detail resources and supports available if someone tests positive for COVID-19.

“For example, letting them know that there are isolation supports, like hotels across the city for those who cannot isolate at home,” Madu said.

A total of 16 self-isolation hotels are now up and running and ready to take in COVID-positive Albertans: six in Calgary, nine in Edmonton and one in Peace River.

Earlier this month, Premier Jason Kenney said there were nearly 800 rooms available in Calgary and more than 1,300 in Edmonton. The premier said the hotels would offer culturally appropriate meals.

Click to play video: 'Alberta sending COVID-19 care teams to hard-hit communities' Alberta sending COVID-19 care teams to hard-hit communities
Alberta sending COVID-19 care teams to hard-hit communities – Dec 16, 2020

The Red Cross coordinated the care package efforts, working with volunteers from numerous community organizations.

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“That was important to us [to work with Red Cross],” Madu said. “We are dealing with a pandemic and we want to make sure it was properly planned with who and where we are visiting.”

Noor Al-Henedy, director of communications at the Al Rashid Mosque, said she felt the experience was impactful.

“People really did appreciate having someone at their door to give a kit and talk to them,” Al-Henedy said. “A lot of people have been feeling isolated.”

Al-Henedy said she’s not surprised her community wanted to help out — the mosque had just finished distributing PPE and food to seniors on Sunday.

“To them, it was a great opportunity to be out there in neighbourhoods and give back,” she said. “We’ve been trying to give our own community members the right information and helping them adhere to the rules.”

Read more: Alberta reports estimated 1,100 cases of COVID-19 on Christmas Eve

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The minister said the Alberta government is prepared to expand the program if other areas need support.

“I think the trigger for us is if we are combatting the virus in the communities [we have gone to],” Madu said. “So far, the data I have been privy to indicates it is a move in the right direction.”

The Edmonton LGAs that will get a visit from care teams include Abbottsfield, Castle Downs, Eastwood, Jasper Place, Mill Woods West, North East, Northgate, Woodcroft East and Woodcroft West. With the exception of Mill Woods, all of the affected areas are in north Edmonton.

The Calgary areas are the Lower and Upper Northeast.

Click to play video: 'Alberta sending COVID-19 care teams to hard-hit communities in Edmonton and Calgary' Alberta sending COVID-19 care teams to hard-hit communities in Edmonton and Calgary
Alberta sending COVID-19 care teams to hard-hit communities in Edmonton and Calgary – Dec 15, 2020

Madu said the teams will complete outreach in Northgate, then travel to Abbottsfield, Woodcroft East and Woodcroft West to talk to community members.

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“We’re all in this together. Unless we work like that, nothing is going to change,” Al-Henedy said.

— With files from Heide Pearson, Global News

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