Alberta’s two biggest cities could soon be getting help from the federal government, as cases and case rates in the province reach record levels.
A Thursday morning tweet from the prime minister’s account said he reached out to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson to talk about the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation in their cities and the province.
The federal government “stands ready to assist in any way we can,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote.
“It was kind of him to call and he really just wanted to see how things were going,” Nenshi said Thursday.
“We had a good conversation about vaccines, in particular about my — I wouldn’t want to call it a concern yet — my question on whether, with the great news that we have will allow everyone over the age of 12 to be vaccinated starting on Monday, if we have the capacity to get those vaccines out the door and whether the federal government might be able to help in the actual delivery of the vaccines to people’s arms.”
Premier Jason Kenney spoke with the prime minister on Wednesday. They talked about the federal government’s offer for assistance, a spokesperson for the Alberta government confirmed.
“Premier Kenney said while federal assistance is not currently required in Alberta, he expressed gratitude for the prime minister’s offer and said Alberta will reach out should such assistance become necessary in the future.
“Premier Kenney also asked the prime minister for the federal government’s cooperation in Alberta’s efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines from neighbouring American states.”
Nenshi said the city was going to do some more modelling on site and staff capacity for Phase 3 vaccinations for the general public, and whether mass vaccination sites are needed in Calgary beyond the Telus Convention Centre and the Genesis Centre.
“My understanding is that it got a little busy at the Telus Convention Centre and we were looking at waits of around two hours for a while there,” Nenshi said, noting a one-hour wait time was closer to the standard.
“A friend of mine went yesterday and was at the desk for her vaccine in 17 minutes.”
Calgary’s mayor said he was going to look at the modelling later on Thursday.
“We will see what we need to do, but I’m not worried about the resources that it’ll take if we need to open more clinics and we can staff them and we have supply, we’ll figure out a way to do it.”
The province opened up registration for vaccination of Albertans aged 30 and older at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning.
Five hours later, Premier Jason Kenney tweeted that 100,000 appointments had been booked through AHS. Vaccines are also available at participating pharmacies.
With recent record numbers of new cases of COVID-19, Nenshi said the city will see an increase in hospitalizations because of the lag between the two metrics. He also expects numbers to stay high as new restrictions come into effect.
Following an COVID-19 update to Edmonton’s emergency advisory committee, Iveson called the situation in his city “dire.”
“I’m especially concerned with how variants appear to be driving a demographic shift in who’s getting sick with COVID and winding up in the hospital,” Edmonton’s mayor said. “A younger population that is still weeks or months away from widespread vaccination.”
Albertans aged 12 and older are eligible to sign up for vaccinations on Monday, May 10.
Ten days ago, the two mayors entered a “friendly Battle of Alberta” for vaccination uptake, a battle the province’s capital is winning so far.
“One-third of the Edmonton zone population have received their first shot and more than 100,000 people are now fully vaccinated,” Iveson said. “This is great progress. And we’re still ahead of Calgary, too.”
Nenshi encouraged eligible Albertans to get their shot as soon as possible and to redouble efforts to follow public health orders.
“Not only do we have to abide by the restrictions now, we’ve got to be very strict on them because the vaccines aren’t going to solve the problem by themselves. We have to flatten the curve.”
–with files from Phil Heidenreich, Global News