More than 1,500 COVID-19-related complaints were submitted to Alberta Health Services over the holidays.
AHS said Thursday it received 1,515 complaints between Dec. 21 and 29. During that same time frame, AHS conducted 326 inspections — 233 following complaints from the public and 93 follow-up inspections to ensure that unsafe practices and violations noted in previous inspections have been corrected.
In total, AHS said four orders were issued and one case was referred to police.
AHS documents posted online show orders were issued to a northwest Edmonton church, an east Edmonton boutique, a home hair salon in Red Deer and a pizza restaurant in Calgary.
Church in the Vine in northwest Edmonton was ordered by AHS to immediately take action to ensure public health orders are being followed.
The order, dated Dec. 29, stated inspectors found people from different households were socializing and gathering before the service. The majority of people at the service were not wearing masks, nor were they at least two metres from each other, according to the order.
The order also stated people on the stage were singing and playing musical instruments while not wearing masks or maintaining distance from each other.
“An individual at the door was handing out stickers that had ‘Church in the Vine – I am mask exempt’ printed on it without even asking if individuals entering the church were legally mask-exempt,” the AHS order reads.
AHS said the church must ensure that all attendees wear a mask or face covering that covers their nose, mouth and chin at all times. Physical distancing of at least two metres between households must be “strictly adhered to at all times.” AHS also noted that those singing and playing instruments must also wear a mask and ensure they are two metres away from each other.
“If this is not possible, live singing and the use of instruments must cease,” the order reads.
Global News reached out to the pastor of the church, who declined to comment.
Boutique on First in Edmonton was also issued an order, dated Dec. 29, after an inspector found there was no COVID-19 signage posted at the entrance or inside the facility advising the public on COVID-19.
The owner was not able to wear a mask and no barriers were implemented to protect the public when purchasing items, according to the order. In addition, the inspector could not confirm if adequate COVID-19 mitigation measures were in place, such as frequent disinfection of high-touch surfaces and screening of staff.
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The boutique has been ordered to post signage at the entry related to mandatory mask bylaws, install protective barriers and provide in writing the COVID-19 precautions being taken by the business.
Tracy’s Place in Red Deer was ordered by AHS on Dec. 23 to immediately close, after the business was found to be open and taking appointments for hair salon services. Current COVID-19 restrictions in place across Alberta required personal services like hair salons to close on Dec. 20.
Little Tavern Pizza Project in Calgary was found to be offering dine-in food service, despite provincial restrictions that required restaurants to close to dine-in on Dec. 20. According to the order dated Dec. 24, people from different households were seated within two metres of each other and provided with a self-service buffet and alcohol.
Global News attempted to contact the owners of the three businesses for comment on Thursday but was unable to reach them.
In a statement Thursday, AHS said its public health inspectors continue to focus on ensuring compliance of the public health orders, and will work with businesses, their staff and clients on how they can safely operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The inspector carries out an education or advisory role as an initial step when responding, outlining what is required and the risks associated with the activities,” AHS said in a statement.
“Where there are outstanding critical violations and a risk of COVID-19 transmission or burden to the health system is present, AHS public health inspectors, empowered under the Public Health Act, can conduct enforcement activities specific to facilities not obeying guidelines set by the chief medical officer of health including an absence of appropriate safety measures, or repeated refusal to put measures in place.”
City of Edmonton patrols, tickets
City of Edmonton bylaw officers have been proactively patrolling local bars, restaurants, gyms, retail stores, churches and other services, checking for COVID-19 public health compliance.
According to public data on the city’s website, bylaw officers patrolled an average of 186 locations per day between Dec. 20 and Dec. 29, with the highest number of locations visited on Dec. 23 (332) and the fewest number visited on Dec. 25 (38).
A total of 236 warnings were issued by bylaw officers between Dec. 20 and Dec. 26, all of which were issued over the city’s face coverings bylaw.
Between Dec. 20 and Dec. 26, City of Edmonton bylaw officers issued 18 tickets, all of which were issued to people not wearing masks.
Overall, the City of Edmonton says compliance of its face coverings bylaw is 97.65 per cent.
The majority of COVID-19-related complaints coming in to the city are over a lack of physical distancing and people not wearing masks, according to city data.
The Edmonton Police Service said it issued four COVID-19-related tickets between Dec. 20 and Dec. 27. However, the EPS did not have any further details on what the tickets were issued for, nor did the service have information on the number of complaints received by police during that time.