Edmonton’s mayor and city manager say while there are signs of pandemic fatigue in the city, most citizens continue to comply with public health rules as Alberta’s capital tries to get through a brutal third wave of COVID-19.
“I think we have good reason to trust Edmontonians given how high our compliance rate is,” city manager Andre Corbould told reporters during an update on the health crisis in the city on Thursday.
Corbould said Edmonton will continue to go with an approach to rule enforcement that focuses on education, but said he believes the province raising the maximum fine for individuals’ non-compliance to $2,000 won’t hurt either.
“We continue to take an approach where we educate first, we ensure people are aware of the ever-changing health measures,” he said. “Tickets are issued in situations where people are repeatedly ignoring the Public Health Act orders, or where the severity of a situation warrants an immediate enforcement at that specific time.
“That’s what we’ll continue to do but we’re not going to count or evaluate our compliance by the number of tickets. We are going to evaluate the compliance by the actual compliance.”
Mayor Don Iveson said that while the city enforces municipal bylaws related to the pandemic, he is appreciative that city peace officers have been empowered to also enforce provincial health orders.
“But when it comes to the prosecution of those, that is more in the hands of the government of Alberta and I think that is the larger question that has been raised in the last few days,” he said.
“It’s one thing for us to write a ticket on a provincial health order; it’s another to follow through on making that stick through the courts.”
Earlier this week, Premier Jason Kenney announced new public health restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta after the province emerged as the North American leader in the number of coronavirus cases per capita, more than any other Canadian province or U.S. state.
“The situation remains dire,” Iveson said Thursday, adding he was particularly concerned about how COVID-19 variants are spreading among young people who have not yet had a chance to be vaccinated.
“We are firmly now in the third wave and it’s exhausting.”
Iveson and Corbould spoke to reporters after a verbal report on the Edmonton’s COVID-19 response was given to the city’s emergency advisory committee Thursday afternoon.
Iveson acknowledged that “new restrictions are causing upheaval in our personal lives and the economy” but added that he believes they are essential to slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Edmonton zone had 5,979 active coronavirus cases. Of those cases, 228 were in hospital with COVID-19 and 56 were in intensive care units.
Iveson said to date, about one-third of Edmontonians have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while over 100,000 people in the city are already fully vaccinated. He added that he was pleased the vaccine is now being opened up to younger people.
The city said that for the most part, the latest restrictions do not impact its services though it will now work to ensure people are following new capacity rules.
Corbould noted Edmontonians won’t be able to book sports fields for at least three weeks and that all indoor recreation activities are cancelled, as well as outdoor fitness classes and activities. However, city-run golf courses and basketball courts will remain open for people to use as long as they only use them with members of their own household.
“It’s really going to be a trust-and-verify model,” Corbould said when asked how the city would enforce that only people in the same households are using those facilities together. “We have a very proactive health/safety compliance team made up of public enforcement agencies.
“They continue to triage the public complaints and respond to them.”
Watch below: (From May 4, 2021) A lot of Edmonton businesses anticipated having to close under Alberta’s new wave of restrictions. The hope from many this time around is that the province sticks to its enforcement plan if people keep breaking the rules. Lisa MacGregor reports.
The city will also need to enforce the rule requiring bar and restaurant patios to close next week.
Iveson said while he believes steps have to be taken to stop the spike in COVID-19 cases, he acknowledges how difficult the restrictions have been on businesses and fears some won’t survive the third wave of the pandemic.
“It is frustrating and costly to have to deal with these cycles of opening and closing.”
He added that the city continues to look at how to help the business sector as it has through the economic recovery grant and with subsidies on some levies.
Iveson said he hopes Edmontonians realize that “what got us through last summer relatively unscathed worked with the basic version of the virus.”
“The variants that are now running rampant here in Alberta, (and) in the situation we find ourselves in, are much more tenacious,” he said. “Being outside in the breeze means there is lower risk, but there is still more risk than we had with the virus last year.”
Iveson also spoke about the city’s continued push to address the issue of homelessness, a crisis which has worsened since the pandemic hit, and said the city continues to push the province for help to find solutions that create opportunities for homeless people to live in places other than shelters or encampments.