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‘A wake up call for all of us’: No new COVID-19 restrictions for Calgary

No new measures will be deployed by the City of Calgary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but officials pleaded with citizens to get back to previous personal measures.

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi and Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson provided an update to citizens Tuesday. It was their first in months – the last time was when the city ended their public health state of emergency.

COVID-19 cases in both Calgary and Edmonton have spiked in recent weeks. The latest provincial updates had 1,549 active cases in the Calgary region.

The province recently announced new measures limiting social gatherings to 15 in certain instances.

Mayor Nenshi and Chief Sampson used the opportunity Wednesday to revisit some of the tools Calgarians used to bring the numbers down over the summer.

Chief Sampson said that transmission rate is at 1.35. They’d prefer it to be at or less than 1.0.

“We want to reiterate that controlling the spread is completely in our hands. Social contact is a major contributor to the higher rates of infection,” said Chief Sampson.

“Now is the time to put a crimp on some of those parties and the social gatherings and stick together in our smaller cohorts.”

The Chief even said that though he’s retiring, he’s not going to have a retirement function.

Sampson said if Calgarians are spending time with others, do it outdoors and follow the appropriate safety protocols, like physical distancing.

The city has removed most of the adaptive pathway areas around the city that citizens used to get outdoors while staying distant. The most recent was the re-opening of Crescent Road along the McHugh Bluff to traffic.

City supports province’s 15-person limit

Chief Sampson that he and his team have been “running around” informing Calgarians of the rules around certain gatherings.

The province’s 15-person limit means for any social gatherings after many larger events – such as weddings or funerals.

“You have 100 people coming to a wedding – which meets the criteria. It’s a ceremony, it’s a wedding,” he said.

“What you can’t do is have the hundred people for a social gathering afterward. You can only have 15.

“If that doesn’t help your (wedding) budget a bit, I don’t know what will.”

He said neither the city nor the province is saying that these things can’t go forward. What they hope to impress upon citizens is that to bring the COVID-19 cases down, precautions must be taken.  Sampson said to stay inside your immediate cohort or bubble of people.

Mayor Nenshi said the idea of a cohort or a bubble can be confusing for some.

“Each of them should stay small,” he said.

“Because there’s no point, for example, having a family cohort where you’re allowed to get together for dinner, and each member of that cohort is on five different sports teams.

“The basic rule is keep it as small as you can.”

Halloween in Calgary

Mayor Nenshi (right) and CEMA Chief Tom Sampson demonstrate some Halloween candy delivery techniques. OMAR SHERIF / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Kids can still head out to trick or treat this Saturday, Chief Sampson said. He said he’s seen several innovative ideas from Calgarians on how they can deliver treats safely.

But private parties need to be limited to 15 or fewer people.

“It’d be a shame if we let one night of Halloween, or a weekend of Halloween to cause another increase in cases,” Chief Sampson said.

Mayor Nenshi also encouraged people to avoid parties. Stay in smaller groups of with your kids. Make sure the costumes have a mask that covers the nose, mouth and chin, he said.

“If you’re at the door and you’re handing out candy, Tom says there’s fun things you can do with tubes and chutes,” Mayor Nenshi said.

The mayor said this isn’t the year to hit a Halloween party.

“This is the year to put on your cool costume and share the pictures on Instagram,” the mayor said.

Stave off another lockdown

Both Mayor Nenshi and Chief Sampson asked Calgarians to once again step up and take these precautions seriously.

They don’t want the situation to spiral out of control. Mayor Nenshi likened it to a petri dish full of the virus that just keeps spreading to the point where it can’t be contained. They don’t want to get there.

“Ultimately, none of us want to lock down again,” he said.

“We’ve got to work hard to avoid that. We need to need to help these businesses succeed. We need to help them get over the hump and we need to make sure the employment is still there.”

Calgary’s unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high. It’s currently at 12.6 per cent.

Chief Sampson said he knows that Calgarians are tired of the restrictions, rules and COVID-19 itself. He said a little bit more needs to be done.

“I think … this second wave of COVID is a wake-up call for all of us,” Chief Sampson said.

“It’s our chance to prove that we know what to do, and that we have the grit to get it done.”