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Edmonton ups COVID-19 enforcement, praises province for ‘prudent’ extension of restrictions

Click to play video 'City of Edmonton reacts to Alberta extending COVID-19 restrictions to Jan. 21' City of Edmonton reacts to Alberta extending COVID-19 restrictions to Jan. 21
WATCH: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced Thursday the current COVID-19 lockdown rules will continue for two more weeks, which both interim city manager Adam Laughlin and Mayor Don Iveson said was the right move given the current numbers and fear there could be a spike in cases from the holidays – Jan 7, 2021

Edmonton’s Emergency Advisory Committee heard an update on the COVID-19 situation Thursday.

As of Jan. 7, the Edmonton zone had 5,465 active cases of COVID-19, 455 people were in Edmonton hospitals because of the novel coronavirus (64 of whom were in intensive care) and a total of 646 people had died in the Edmonton area from COVID-19.

To compare, on Nov. 12, Edmonton had 3,572 active cases, 132 people in hospital (30 patients in ICU) and 153 deaths.

“We’ve already lost too many Edmontonians to the virus,” Mayor Don Iveson said Thursday.

“Hundreds in the Edmonton zone just in the last month and I know we don’t want to lose anymore.”

Read more: Alberta COVID-19 restrictions remain in place until Jan. 21 as students head back to class Monday

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The mayor welcomed news that the province was extending the health restrictions currently in place until at least Jan. 21.

“I appreciate hearing that,” he said. “I think there was some chatter that restrictions might be lifted and I think that would have been gravely premature given the seriousness of the overall situation with the virus, particularly the strain still on the health-care system.

“It’s very prudent,” Iveson said, adding that the federal aid that’s in place for both businesses forced to close and their employees continues to apply during this time period.

Click to play video 'Critical care physician warns of a 3rd wave, says ICU filling up at alarming rate' Critical care physician warns of a 3rd wave, says ICU filling up at alarming rate
Critical care physician warns of a 3rd wave, says ICU filling up at alarming rate – Dec 16, 2020

“I think that’s a positive step given where the data is at at this point in time,” interim city manager Adam Laughlin said regarding the restriction extension.

“We haven’t seen the flattening of the curve. We’ve got more work to do. That’s consistent with what our assessment would be.”

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Read more: A glimpse inside an Edmonton ICU full of COVID-19 patients

The Emergency Advisory Committee heard Thursday that recent data trends showing the initial results of the restrictions are encouraging, the numbers of active cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths are still too high.

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“I recognize and appreciate the sacrifices Edmontonians have made to keep each other and our community safe,” Iveson said. “While we’re all getting weary of the pandemic, our efforts are working, but we’ve not flattened the curve yet.

“If we stick to both the letter and the spirit of the restrictions, we’ll be able to gather again as soon as possible with our friends and families.”

Read more: COVID-19 infractions lead to hundreds of warnings, 38 tickets issued by Edmonton peace officers

While the city took an “education first” approach to enforcement of public health orders, bylaw officers have been issuing more violation tickets recently.

Click to play video 'Mayor Don Iveson on Edmonton’s COVID-19 enforcement: ‘People are doing the right thing’' Mayor Don Iveson on Edmonton’s COVID-19 enforcement: ‘People are doing the right thing’
Mayor Don Iveson on Edmonton’s COVID-19 enforcement: ‘People are doing the right thing’ – Jan 7, 2021

Between Dec. 10 and Jan. 4, Edmonton officers monitored 374 public locations, checked 2,675 businesses and took 1,229 “enforcement actions.”

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Laughlin said 98 tickets were issued to people violating the face covering rule and nine tickets were issued for Public Health Act infringements.

Read more: Alberta’s new COVID-19 measures ban in-person dining, outdoor gatherings; retail to remain open

Still, he said most Edmontonians are following the rules. As of Jan. 6, the city had a 98 per cent compliance rate for face coverings.

The mayor said despite any “narratives” regarding tension around following the rules, “there really doesn’t seem to be any in our city for the most part.” He added the decision to increase enforcement is one that is widely supported by council and the public after so many months of education.

Click to play video 'Hundreds of Alberta doctors pen letter asking why COVID-19 unit staff aren’t priority for vaccine' Hundreds of Alberta doctors pen letter asking why COVID-19 unit staff aren’t priority for vaccine
Hundreds of Alberta doctors pen letter asking why COVID-19 unit staff aren’t priority for vaccine – Jan 6, 2021

The city continues to have ongoing discussions with the province regarding pandemic response, Laughlin said.

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Part of that is advocating “strongly” for local front-line workers to be considered as higher priority for COVID-19 vaccine, “especially first responders,” he said.

While the vaccine program brings hope, the mayor stressed “the city has no control over vaccine rollout.” The federal government is in charge of the supply and the province dictates when, where, how and to whom it’s distributed.

Read more: Alberta health-care workers, paramedics concerned with COVID-19 vaccine prioritization

“General public immunization isn’t scheduled until the fall of 2021,” Laughlin said.

“We’re in no way out of the woods yet,” Iveson added.

They both urged Edmontonians to stay vigilant and follow all the public health guidelines.

The city let the province know it is willing to help with vaccine distribution in any way it can — including making unused city facilities available to Alberta Health Services.

“We’ve signaled our readiness to support the local rollout,” Laughlin said.

“We will mobilize any city resources and any infrastructure needed” to assist in the vaccine rollout, if called upon, Iveson added.

All city recreation centres, arenas and the Edmonton Valley Zoo remain closed until at least Thursday, Jan. 21.

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Once the province permits these facilities to reopen, it will take between seven and 10 days to recall staff and prepare the facilities for the public.

Edmonton’s face-covering bylaw will remain in place until Dec. 31, 2021, unless city council repeals the bylaw sooner.

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