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‘We have now crossed a tipping point’: Hinshaw

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Three COVID cases in Hinton as provincial numbers rise

Hinton currently has three cases of COVID-19 while Yellowhead County has four confirmed cases.

In the last announcement from Alberta’s chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, new mandatory and voluntary measures were introduced in the Calgary and Edmonton zones as numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to rise again.

“We have now crossed a tipping point and are losing the balance we have been seeking,” said Hinshaw.

Face mask bylaws were activated in several Albertan communities as a result of their local active cases but Hinton does not have a face mask bylaw in place.

Council discussed the use of mandatory masks in public spaces during the standing committee meeting on Aug. 25 but made no decision going forward.

During that meeting, Todd Martens, Hinton’s protective services manager, indicated the Town looked at bylaw examples in Banff, Jasper, Edson, Edmonton, Calgary, and Lethbridge. A few of these would be triggered and activated in response to rising numbers of COVID-19.

At the time, council concluded that administration and a trigger of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) could deal with any potential risks of COVID-19 in various ways. The state of local emergency (SOLE) would allow administration the power to do what is necessary for the protection of the community, including mandating masks. A potential bylaw could be either educational or enforceable, Martens added.

Grande Prairie’s mandatory mask bylaw was activated in response to its triggers on Oct. 26 and will be valid until Jan. 31. A similar temporary bylaw was also triggered in the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo, including Fort McMurray, and will be effective for at least 30 days. Westlock just passed a face mask bylaw on Oct. 26.

A new change from AHS is that if a positive case attended an event while infectious, AHS will notify the organizer and provide them with written notification that can be emailed to event attendees within 24 hours. 

“This change will make the close contact notification process quicker for large events,” said Hinshaw.

There are active alerts or outbreaks in about 11 per cent of schools in Alberta with a total of 680 active cases, she added. There are currently 101 schools with an outbreak, including 39 on the watch list with five or more cases. 

Hinshaw added that just six per cent of all COVID cases in those aged five to 19 since Sept. 1 have been acquired at school, which means schools are not a main driver of community transmission.

Due to the demands on the health system, AHS moved to postpone up to 30 per cent of non urgent surgeries in the Edmonton zone.

No additional health measures have recently been put in place for rural Alberta, but Calgary and Edmonton are now limited to gatherings of only 15 people. 

Hinshaw noted that in the last two weeks in both cities, social gatherings made up 15 per cent of all outbreaks, and almost a third of all outbreak related cases.

“This 15 person limit is temporary, it will be reassessed after one month and can be lifted if we see our growth rate or R value decline below one and new case numbers consistently below 100 in each city,” stated Hinshaw.