A provincial program aimed at getting help to residents of Calgary and Edmonton with high rates of COVID-19 transmission is being called a success.
In December the province announced additional help for residents living in 11 communities — nine in Edmonton and two in Calgary — that 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.
The Calgary communities are Lower and Upper Northeast.
Over the past month COVID care teams across the province have delivered 25,000 care packages complete with information in a variety of languages, letting people know of available supports.
“I think what we realized is part of the area where some of the infections were coming from were from people who weren’t hearing mainstream English and French media, and consequently, through no fault of their own, weren’t getting the information,” Interim Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver said.
“So now I think we’re going through a better stream and I think it’s going to show results over time.”
McIver said there are are a total of 50,000 care packages.
The head of Centre for Newcomers is calling the outreach program a success because people are being reached in their community and in their language.
“I absolutely think it’s been very successful,” Centre for Newcomers president and CEO Anila Lee Yuen said.
“We are actually getting out to the community and getting messages out in plain language — in English and also in 23 other languages currently so people are able to get access to information really quickly.
“It’s a model that we are getting calls from other cities in terms of how can they start replicating it as well.”
She said the agency is one of 17 organizations that are involved in the outreach program.
A multilingual emergency response centre has also been established. The centre is able to provide information on a number of subjects including financial supports available to workers negatively affected by COVID-19. But Lee Yuen said they would like to see more people access the toll free line at 1-833-217-6614.
“We are open every single day of the week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and we have a capacity for 200 calls a day minimum,” she said. Right now we are probably close to 40 or 50 calls per day so we can do a lot more.”
Also helping people affected by COVID-19 is Calgary’s Sikh community, which put out a call for donations this weekend at the Genesis Centre in northeast Calgary. Organizers said they were inspired by the volunteer work of farmers in India, who despite their struggles over agricultural reform laws are still finding time to donate food and cook for those less fortunate.
“It’s called Sewa which means selfless service. So for Sikhs it’s very important that we practice Sewa as much as possible,” food drive organizer Gurpartap Baidwan said.
The donations gathered on the weekend will go to the Mustard Seed and Drop In Centre as well as to the Dashmesh Culture Centre so that volunteers can take hampers to people who must self-isolate because of COVID-19.
“It’s extremely important that they are able to get the supplies and food and whatever other items they need because it’s 14 days you are spending by yourself in isolation so it’s extremely important. I think that’s one aspect that’s quite overlooked,” Baidwan said.
Upper northeast still has the highest rate per 100,000 in Calgary, which three times that of several other Calgary regions.