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‘It’s maddening’: Mayor Nenshi wants Calgarians to take action as COVID-19 cases climb

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi came equipped with charts and data to impress upon Calgarians that we’re “staring down the barrel here” with COVID-19.

The mayor participated in his first COVID-19 update in some time as COVID-19 case counts swelled across Calgary.  

The mayor spoke just prior to the province’s implementation of new measures Thursday afternoon. They will be rolled out in COVID-19 hotspots around the province. The hotspots are those areas with case counts of 350 cases per 100,000 population. Included in that are Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Airdrie, Lethbridge and Strathcona County (Sherwood Park).

The province reported 2,048 cases in the past 24 hours. There are 632 people in hospital, with 151 in ICU, a new Alberta record.

Beginning Monday, all junior and senior high school students in Calgary and Airdrie will move to online learning for at least two weeks. Calgary high schools have been learning online since the last measures.

Further changes include the closure of indoor fitness and sports facilities. This will remain in effect for two weeks, regardless of the 350/100K threshold.

According to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, they’ve worked with restaurants to increase stringency of verification of patrons one patios. They must be from the same household, or are two identified close contacts.

The premier said they’d impose curfews on areas that reached rates of 1,000 cases per 100,000 population, if municipal governments request it.

“I know that it’s been a long road. I know many people will not want to take take another step in this direction and more stringency,” the Premier said Thursday afternoon.

The premier also said that in non-compliance enforcement cases, people could have future registry services restricted if they fail to pay.

Calgary numbers equal across the city

Mayor Nenshi said for a long time Calgarians could pretend that the concentration of cases was left to the northeast and east parts of Calgary.

“Guess what? The numbers are almost equivalent across the whole city now,” he said.

He referenced the situation in India where the health system is collapsing under the weight of tens of thousands of daily coronavirus cases.

“Here’s something I need you to know. The infection rate in India is approximately 200 people per 100,000. in Calgary today, it’s 520 people. It’s twice as bad,” the mayor said.

“That’s why is absolutely critical for all of us to be able to manage this with incredible vigor, and incredible discipline.”

The mayor said back on Jan. 7, Calgary was at roughly 7,500 cases. As of yesterday, the city had 8882 active cases. He said this third wave is much worse than the second.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry said she understands the mental and physical fatigue for everyone.  But, it’s important for everyone to do their part. If you are infected, cooperate with contact tracers.

“They’re a critical part in the system and know providing important information to you and helping trace the cases,” she said.

They’re also actively working with the province to continue expediting vaccines to Calgarians.

Enforcement of public health orders

The mayor acknowledged that it’s frustrating to see fellow Calgarians blatantly flouting the public health orders while case numbers leap.

“I know it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating when you see those ant-mask idiots and their protests, coughing and saying they have bronchitis… as if… and you say, ‘well, nothing’s happening to them,’” the mayor said.

“I know it’s maddening when you see pictures of your friends having birthday parties, and putting stuff up on Instagram, and you’ve been doing all the right things. It’s maddening.”

Calgary Police Service Deputy Chief Chad Tawfik said they’re preparing for yet another weekend of anti-mask and anti-vaccination protests.

He wanted to provide context on why it’s not so simple to enforce.

“There’s many nuances to the provincial legislation and other enforcement measures that require response from CPS and our partners that may not always appear acceptable or adequate to the public,” he said.

“We understand this and totally appreciate the frustration.”

He said they are enforcing the orders when it’s legal and safe to do so, they will follow through. The CPS is also frustrated with those who are blatantly violating public health orders.

“Our officers are also being yelled at, battered on social media and have had them and their families targeted by individuals whose intent is to cause chaos and disorder,” Tawfik said.

He said the continue to work with AHS and the province to address enforcement gaps. They will focus on repeat offenders and organizers of these protest events.

Since April 15 (updated April 22), 16 violations for failure to wear a face mask were issued. In that same time six public health order tickets were doled out.

A recent CTV Calgary article showed a high percentage of tickets issued during the pandemic were being thrown out in court.