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‘It had to be done.’ Calgary updates COVID-19 response after new provincial measures

While the city’s yet to iron out specific on the new provincial regulations, Calgary’s mayor said despite the upcoming hardship, the measures were necessary.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi updated media on Calgary’s response to COVID-19 particularly around the new provincial public health measures.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, 1,460 new cases were reported. There are now 685 people in hospital with 121 in the intensive care unit. The province is reporting 653 deaths, with 219 of those in Calgary.

The province also announced that vaccines would begin being administered to critical health care workers starting next Wednesday (Dec. 16).

The mayor said the next four weeks is going to be tough on a lot of people – especially around the holiday season.

“This was necessary. It was critical. It had to be done. And I know it’s tough,” Mayor Nenshi said.

“And I know a lot of people are questioning, ‘what am I going to do about my own life, my own family and Christmas.’ And a lot of business owners are questioning ‘what am I going to do now? Will I be able to come back in January?’”

He reminded Calgarians what’s at stake.

“Remember there’s no economy without health. There’s no Christmas with empty chairs,” the mayor said.

He was glad the province finally moved ahead with stricter measures, as the situation was spiralling out of control.

Few answers, more questions

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry said she understands Calgarians have a lot of questions. They have a lot of questions and they’re still working through the fine details of the provincial orders.

“Let me tell you up front, we don’t have all of the answers that you’ll be looking for today,” she said.

“That said, I think we all watched the provincial announcement yesterday, and the spirit of the orders is clear. We need to flatten the curve and help reduce the spread of COVID.”

One of the big questions is around the city’s popular outdoor firepit program. That was brought in to encourage people to get outdoors in groups of less than 10. With the new rules barring outdoor gatherings, the city will no longer be processing any new permits.

Existing permits will be honoured, but officials are asking that it be limited only to members of one household.

Chief Henry asked Calgarians to be patient if they are accessing the city’s 311 system with requests or reports related to COVID-19. They don’t have all the answers either, she said.

Mayor Nenshi expected there would be an impact on the City of Calgary’s workforce. While the work from home order won’t have a big impact, closures could result in temporary layoffs like it did in the spring.

More on enforcement

Earlier this week, the city received approval for level 2 peace officers to issue tickets under the public health orders. That brings the complement of enforcing personnel to more than 100, said Calgary’s Chief Bylaw Officer Ryan Pleckaitis.

Pleckaitis said they were active during last weekend’s rally at city hall. While they’re still reviewing evidence with CPS, they expect tickets will be issued.

He also said they did attend a religious service operating without a permit and issued three tickets carrying a penalty of $3,000 each.  They also received another complaint of a religious service that was overcapacity and none of the attendees were masked.  They are investigating.

“I know a lot of the focus has been on the enforcement of the Public Health Act,” Pleckaitis said.

“But I want to raise this to demonstrate that we have a variety of legislative tools that are at our disposal, that can be used as activities or services are provided in a manner that jeopardize the health or safety of others.”

Additional time was needed to process the current public health orders, Pleckaitis said.

Given the broad scope of the new orders, Pleckaitis said cooperation and collaboration was needed.

“No doubt, this is a daunting task, but it’s one where we’re relying on collaboration and integration of our services to be effective in our response,” he said, noting their partnership with Calgary police.

“Collaboration will be the key for us moving forward if we expect to be successful with the enforcement of these new orders.”