Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Calgary mayor wants coronavirus relaunch metrics; province said they don’t use specific numbers

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he thinks the province’s coronavirus relaunch strategy is “by and large” driven by fact-based evidence, but there are lingering questions.

In Tuesday’s City of Calgary coronavirus briefing, the mayor said he was a little surprised by the May 14 date.

“My first instinctual reaction was that feels way too early. Is two weeks long enough for businesses to get up to speed on what they need to do in order to reopen,” Mayor Nenshi said.

Nenshi’s questioned specific metrics the province will use to determine if the May 14 relaunch date is reasonable.

The May 14 target date allows the ease back into economic activity; retail services, hair services, daycares, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to reopen (with 50 per cent occupancy), museums and art galleries and additional outdoor recreation.

“What are your targets, what metrics will you be using to determine if May 14 is a go?” Mayor Nenshi asked.

He also asked about future stages of the relaunch and how that would be determined.

In previous briefings, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw has maintained that the province would need to see a prolonged decline in the number of hospitalizations and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions. They would also have to see a decline in the number of cases relative to testing.

On Tuesday, the province announced a plan to double provincial testing capacity to 16,000 with an investment from the Calgary Health Trust.

Testing has also been a key cog in the relaunch. With more data, the province can better target response, they’ve said.

Drill down to the specifics, Nenshi said

The mayor said he’s heard that Stage 2 could happen as quickly as two weeks after Stage 1.

“Let me be clear. That would be a mistake,” he said.

Mayor Nenshi said with an incubation period of at least two weeks, he thinks it should be several weeks between stages.

“If not a month or more between stages to see what’s happening, so you have the evidence in place in order to make future decisions,” he said.

When asked Tuesday if the province had defined metrics, they said there is no specific number.

“Decisions will be based on monitoring and evaluating how the virus is spreading in the province,” wrote Tom McMillan, assistant director of communication with Alberta Health, in an email.  

McMillan said they would look at the weekly average of daily news cases and hospitalizations in week-over-week comparisons.

“The easing of public health measures from one stage to the next would be supported by 2-3 weeks of stable or declining numbers. The number of ICU cases and the percentage of ICU beds occupied would also play a role in any decisions,” McMillan said.

City golf courses, skateparks

The new hole 18 at McCall Lake golf course in northeast Calgary. CITY OF CALGARY WEBSITE

Also on Tuesday, the city said they would start taking tee time bookings at select city golf courses on May 11. They would open May 14.

Mayor Nenshi said that after the province announced that Alberta golf courses could open last weekend, he’d heard mixed reviews on success.

He said some reported challenges with physical distancing and some of the specific health rules expected to be in place at the courses.

“I will remind the golf course operators that they are subject to these rules and they are subject to bylaw inspection if we are receiving complaints,” he said.

Nenshi said that not all courses would be open at once. They were still hiring seasonal workers to fill positions and ensuring they had the proper personal protective equipment in place.

In terms of skateparks, Mayor Nenshi said it’s been a debate whether to open them. They did open them at last Friday’s briefing, but again, Mayor Nenshi said there were reports people weren’t using physical distance.

“Ultimately we decided to open them because we trust that the users will treat these parks responsibly,” he said.

“We always want people to know to do the right thing, but I gotta be honest with you: If you don’t know (the rules) by now you’re being deliberately ignorant.”