EDMONTON — As the province’s top doctor acknowledges Alberta is officially in the throes of a second wave of COVID-19, more Albertans are calling on local leaders to take steps their provincial government won’t.
“Certainly I’m hearing a lot of pressure from across the city and elsewhere in the province for mayors to take stronger action than the province has to date,” Edmonton’s Don Iveson told media on Tuesday.
Confidence in provincial leadership has declined since the start of the pandemic, according to Leger surveys.
A Nov. 17 opinion poll found Albertans were the most dissatisfied of all Canadians with their government’s pandemic response: a total of 59 per cent of participants said they were either somewhat or very dissatisfied with action taken by Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government.
Six per cent reported they were “very satisfied” and 31 per cent said they were “somewhat satisfied.”
But on March 30, Leger reported 68 per cent of Albertans approved of their premier’s response.
“Number one, we need the federal contact tracing app immediately. Number two, we need stricter community health measure that can help keep schools open,” Edmonton Public School Board trustee Michael Janz told CTV News Edmonton.
He will be asking his colleagues to sign a letter to Kenney asking for those two things.
Meanwhile, the division’s superintendent has taken matters partially into his own hands, issuing a two-week pause on indoor extra-curricular recreation and athletic activities.
“While we are trying our best to cohort them, ultimately we know there is school transmission,” Janz said.
Roughly 13 per cent of schools in the province were managing active COVID-19 alerts or outbreaks.
However, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says in-school transmission has only happened in 151 schools of 309 currently with cases, and resulted in 79 new diagnoses.
‘IT’S NOT WORKING’: COUNCILLOR
During a provincial update Monday, top doctor Deena Hinshaw faced questions about Alberta’s daily case counts – which have consistently numbered between 800 and 1,000 for one week – and what would trigger more action from her department.
Some health professionals and, most recently, Calgary’s emergency management chief, have called for a temporary or “circuit-breaker” lockdown.
“Each measure, again, has consequences. Both intended and unintended and those are the things that need to be discussed and considered,” Hinshaw responded.
She said her office was considering a number of measures implemented by different jurisdictions around the world, but encouraged Albertans to “redouble their efforts” in the meantime.
“The health care system is currently able to manage the COVID cases that are presenting,” she said Monday.
“We know that there will continue to be a rise in demand for hospitalizations and ICU over the coming one to two weeks because of what we’ve seen historically in cases. However, the question of what happens after that time period, again, rests in all of our hands.”
“They’re saying, ‘Knock it off.’ They’re saying, you know, ‘Take personal responsibility…’
“But that doesn’t work. It’s not working,” commented Ward 4 Coun. Aaron Paquette.
“I can’t imagine why anyone would want to see our health system… get pushed to the brink.”
‘WE HAVE GREAT POWER WHEN WE WORK TOGETHER’: CMOH
In August, Janz and his fellow councillors brought in a mandatory mask bylaw and subsequently saw surrounding municipalities create their own version, some triggered by a rise in community cases.
Mayor Iveson called it an “interesting precedent because in that case, it was quite clear that the province would not go there.”
But again, he’s advocating for provincial action.
“Any one municipality acting alone, and not strictly in lockstep with our other neighbours represents further confusion for people, which we do not need right now, and inconsistency in terms of measures, which is not fair to business,” Iveson said.
He also considers the city’s powers under the State of Local Emergency Act better suited for responding to natural disasters than pandemics.
“We don’t have clear jurisdiction or the right tools or the right data.”
On Tuesday, the province added 773 new cases.
One week earlier, Alberta brought in new public health measures, cancelling indoor group fitness and performance activities, and forcing liquor-selling restaurants to close by 11 p.m.
Other measures – including recommendations to cancel private gatherings – remain voluntary.
“We all need to do our part. We have great power when we work together,” Hinshaw told Albertans.
For now, the city is waiting to see what impact the changes have.
“We shouldn’t be making legislation in the absence of provincial legislation,” Paquette told CTV News Edmonton.
“If we’re forced to at some point, well I guess we’ll consider it, but we’re not there yet.”
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson
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