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Calgary coronavirus briefing – April 23: Threat of more punitive enforcement grows

Calgary flipped open the safeguard on the ticketing button for coronavirus public health violators, but they hope to only use it as a last resort.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson is only aware of seven total tickets (issued by the Calgary police). They’re still hoping to educate the stubborn few who aren’t complying.

“I’m going to tell you that I’m a little frustrated in the sense that there’s some groups of people that don’t seem to be getting it,” he said during Wednesday’s City of Calgary coronavirus briefing.

“Starting very shortly, we will be encouraging our bylaw services who will be working in conjunction with the police services to use ticketing as a last resort.”

Several people reported on social media that over the warm weekend, people weren’t respecting the physical distance guidelines.

Sampson said Calgary bylaw officers have done more than 240 patrols and have spoken with more than 1,800 citizens. Bylaw officers have yet to write a ticket, he said.

In the same time (since last Friday), Calgary’s 311 system has fielded 152 complaints related to coronavirus. Of those complaints, 69 were because of physical distancing, 36 were social distancing on private property, 21 on playground use, 26 complaints around public gatherings.

Over the same timeframe, 311 had 182 general inquiries, Chief Sampson said.

Sampson pointed to specific concerns in the Crescent Road area, where he went in person to review the issues.

“There were pieces of that roadway that were completely inappropriate,” he said.

Sampson said they’d be talking with roads today about reducing traffic flow in the area. They’ll still allow people to get through.

The threat looms, but it’s still last resort

The city is still pushing an education-first approach, said Chief Sampson.

Sampson was asked in several different ways at what point the city would toughen the enforcement on those not complying with rules.

Ultimately, he said to this point Calgary police and bylaw officers have exercised exceptional judgment. They aren’t relying on ticketing.

“They said they’re not looking to charge people but when it’s right out there and so blatant, their officers will make that decision,” Chief Sampson said.

In areas where they’re having problems, perhaps they’ll limit parking, or take other measures, Chief Sampson said.

“We’re trying to keep Calgary open,” he said.

“I’m with his Worship, when he says, you know, please try and stay home, but at the same time, if you’re going to go out, there’s the opportunity to spread out.”

Odds and ends from daily briefing

  • Beginning April 21, Calgarians can now include extra bags of waste with their black bins. Same goes with the green cart, Sampson said.
  • Calgary’s Animal Services runs a safekeeping program. If you are sick, hospitalized or otherwise incapacitated due to COVID-19, you can call 311 and ask for assistance. The city can help care for a pet for 14 days while a citizen recovers.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi finished up with his clean hands, clear heads and open hearts message. But he asked Calgarians to continue thinking about how they could help keep the coronavirus at bay. He said the work must continue so we avoid a potentially harsh second wave.

“When in doubt, don’t go out. If you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this a safe thing to do?’ It’s not a safe thing to do,” he said.

“That’s probably the rule we should all follow.”