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March 23: Western Canada and COVID-19

In the event that a balance between personal freedom and public health and safety measures cannot be struck, leaders are opting to implement further restrictions.

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As of Monday March 23, there are 2,036 cases in Canada with less than half, 859 cases, in the western provinces.

Officials are becoming upset with the lack of compliance from Canadians with regard to public health recommendations. In the event that a balance between personal freedom and public health and safety measures cannot be struck, leaders are opting to implement further restrictions.

As of Monday, PEI has completed a shutdown of non-essential businesses to keep people at home. Ontario and Quebec have each announced an impending shutdown of non-essential businesses to begin at midnight March 24. Quebec’s shutdown is in place until April 13 after their numbers spiked from 221 to 628 Monday.

Alberta

There have been 42 new cases announced in Alberta bringing the province’s total to 301. 24 cases are believed to be from community spread.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency announced Monday morning that Calgary playgrounds will closed in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The announcement comes just one day after Rocky View Schools announced they will restrict access to all playgrounds on school property.

“Even mild symptoms can result in infection,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said Monday.

Dr. Hinshaw also said that contact with surfaces which were previously touched by someone who was positive for the virus, can transmit the virus.

Alberta will not be testing those who have minor symptoms asking instead that those who present minor symptoms self-isolate for 14 days.

Hinshaw said new measures will be taken to protect health workers. Those who work within the system, including contractors and non-medical staff, will be tested prior to coming to work.

While people are still being encouraged to go outside and to go for walk, Hinshaw said that social distancing is still very important.

Mountain day trips are not recommended at this time as many public washrooms and other public access buildings are now closed, Hinshaw said.

Those who need additional assistance for mental health are encouraged to reach out to someone they trust.

Alberta Health Services has developed a text messaging system to help offer encouragement to deal with Alberta’s “new normal”.

Dr. Hinshaw reiterated that the province must monitor the measures currently in place to determine whether those measures are sufficient or need to be strengthened. If the current measures are found to be insufficient in flattening the curve of infections, additional measures may be implemented.

Based on new information, individuals may be able to return to work after 10 days rather than 14.

Additional information for Alberta residents can be found here.

British Columbia

The province announced 48 new cases bringing its total to 472 with 100 recovered and 13 deaths.

Six long-term care facilities have seen infections including Lynn Valley where 36 residents and 19 staff have tested positive, Hollyburn, Haro Park (10 residents and 12 staff), Delta View long term care (one staff) and German Canada House (one staff).

Grocers, banks and pharmacies have deemed essential businesses, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s health official stated.

The province is also looking to increase precautions for long-term care facilities which will mean a further reduction in visitation accessibility.

The City of Vancouver has announced that it will fine businesses up to $50,000 if social distancing recommendations are not followed. Individuals could be fined up to $1,000 within the city.

Additional information for B.C. residents can be found here.

Manitoba

One new case was identified in Manitoba but the province’s numbers remain at 20 as one presumptive case has been found negative.

The single case that was unrelated to travel was under investigation but was eventually determined to be a false positive according to chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

All residents who are returning from travel outside of the province, even within Canada, are asked to self-isolate upon their return.

“I want to make it clear that this is not just a suggestion,” Roussin said during a briefing Monday.

“We have this in place because the risk to Manitobans is real, since all of our cases have been imported from travel. We are appealing to people’s civic duties.”

At this time there are no plans to limit travel within the province.

The province has completed more than 4,000 tests and there is no longer anyone in hospital for COVID-19-related illness.

There have been no deaths from COVID-19 in Manitoba.

Additional information for Manitoba residents can be found here.

Saskatchewan

The province has identified 14 new, confirmed cases, bringing the province’s total to 65 confirmed and one presumptive case.

Two of the cases are individuals between the ages of five and 19, all others are adults according to the government press release on Monday.

61 per cent of the cases are in males and 39 per cent are in females.

All residents who are returning from destinations outside of Canada are subject to “mandatory self-isolation order”, said the release.

“Anyone identified by a Ministry of Health Official as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 shall go into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days from the date of having been exposed.”

Additional information for Saskatchewan residents can be found here.

Provincial tallies:

  • Quebec: 628 confirmed and presumptive cases, including 1 recovered and 5 deaths
  • Ontario: 489 cases, including 5 recovered and 3 deaths
  • British Columbia: 472 confirmed cases, including 5 recovered and 13 deaths
  • Alberta: 301 confirmed cases including one death
  • Saskatchewan: 66 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Nova Scotia: 28 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Manitoba: 20 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • New Brunswick: 17 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Prince Edward Island: 3 confirmed cases
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 9 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Northwest Territories: 1 confirmed case
  • Yukon: 2 confirmed cases

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard
dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter @Mitchell_AB

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Hockey arena backs down on banning unvaccinated kids

Within hours of the Western Standard posting the exclusive story, Oaten was contacted by the SLSFSC and advised of an update to their policy.

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Public pressure has brought minor hockey out of the penalty box in Cochrane.

Following an exclusive story by the Western Standard on Saturday, along with mounting pressure from the community, a Cochrane sports facility has revamped its vaccine passport policy.  

The Cochrane Minor Hockey Association (CMHA) and Hockey Alberta were not mandating a vaccine passport system, but Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre (SLSFSC) announced it would be requiring proof of vaccine status for anyone 12 and up.

Within hours of the story being posted, CMHS President Cory Oaten was contacted by the SLSFSC and advised of an update to their policy with this statement: “Youth between the ages of 12 (vaccine eligible) to 18 years of age are exempt from the REP vaccination requirement to enter the facility for the purpose of participating in a youth organized sport organization. Examples include (but not limited to) Cochrane Minor Hockey, Ringette, Cochrane Minor Soccer, Lacrosse, Cochrane Figure Skating Club, Comets, Junior Lifeguard Club, etc.”

Although youth may access the facility without being vaccinated, all adult spectators, coaches, volunteers and organizers of any youth activity “must show proof of vaccination, proof of a negative test, or medical exemption to gain entry to SLSFSC premises.”

“Although this helps our kids get on the ice in Cochrane, it’s still an issue at lots of other facilities, especially in larger facilities in Calgary and Airdrie,” Oaten said.

Oaten, who works in the insurance industry, points out the “huge liability issue” this poses to his and other sports organizations.

“Originally, Spray Lakes pushed us to collect this medical documentation from our members,” he said.

The CMHA board consists of 18 volunteer members.

“They can’t put those expectations on a board of volunteers. It’s a big legal issue for us,” Oaten said, adding he and his board refuse to take responsibility for requiring proof of vaccine or the collection of their members’ private medical information.

Oaten was informed the SLSFSC will now have its own security checkpoints set up in the facility and will take responsibility for checking the vaccine status of anyone 18-plus entering the building.

Oaten anticipates families will still pull their kids from hockey and other sports programs as those who remain unvaccinated will not be permitted in the facility to accompany their child.

Hockey Alberta stated on their Facebook page they are working with the Alberta government on how last Wednesday’s announcement will affect hockey for Alberta players. Oaten has asked his members to hold off on making a decision to pull their child from the program until Hockey Alberta comes forward with their updated season plan.

The Western Standard reached out to the SLSFSC for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Risdon is a reporter for the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Nearly $400 million in commemorative holiday events planned for fed employees only

The Department of Canadian Heritage promises “large-scale commemoration events” for a September 30 holiday for federally regulated employees only.

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It’ll cost hundreds of millions of dollars with federally regulated employees getting ready to party like it’s 2021, all on the public teat.

The Department of Canadian Heritage promises “large-scale commemoration events” for a September 30 holiday for federally regulated employees only.

Blacklock’s Reporter says the holiday will cost $388.9 million, by official estimate.

“The department will collaborate with national organizations for large-scale commemorative events on September 30,” staff wrote in a briefing note. It is the first federal observance of its kind.

The Senate on June 3 passed Bill C-5 An Act To Amend The Bills Of Exchange Act that designates September 30 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The paid holiday applies only to federal employees including the RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces, and federally-regulated private sector workers at job sites like airports, banks, grain mills, marine shippers, radio stations and railways.

“This new annual statutory holiday on September 30 will ensure public commemoration of the tragic history and legacy of Residential Schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process,” said the briefing note National Day For Truth And Reconciliation. Costs of planned events were estimated at $2.7 million.

Parliament passed the holiday bill without a dissenting vote though senators in final debate questioned its usefulness. “What could long-term, dedicated and stable funding mean for food security, for closing the infrastructure gap which is huge, for finally ending boiled water advisories, for dealing with acute housing shortfalls in Indigenous communities?” asked Senator Dennis Patterson (Nunavut).

“It is hard for me to hear about the hundreds of millions of dollars that will go to provide federal employees a paid day off when I think about how an ongoing commitment of what we have heard today would be $388.9 million per annum for this holiday,” said Patterson.

“It would be an insult to my family members, to my friends and to the memories of those survivors I have lost along the way if this day were to become yet another paid day at the cottage for federal workers,” said Patterson. “It needs to truly be a day of remembrance and learning.”

The Treasury Board said direct costs were $165.9 million in the federal public service. “Most of that is in lost productivity,” Stephen Diotte, executive director of human resources, told the Senate June 3.

“The balance of it is payments required for employees in 24/7 work environments like corrections or Canada Border Services or ships’ crews and officers in the Department of National Defence and Department of Fisheries,” said Diotte.

The $165.9 million figure did not include holiday pay or overtime for Crown corporation employees. “I don’t have those figures,” said Diotte.

The labour department said airlines, marine shippers and other federally-regulated private sector companies would pay another $223 million annually.

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City of Edmonton mandates COVID jabs

The e-mail did not contain what disciplinary actions the city would take against staff who don’t get jabbed.

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City of Edmonton employees have less than a month to get jabbed against COVID-19, officials said in a new mandatory vaccine policy announced Monday.

City Manager Andre Corbould said in an e-mail to all staff they will have to be vaccinated by November 15.

“Last week, I shared the results from the Employee COVID-19 Vaccination Disclosure Policy (A1700) with you. The Executive Leadership Team (ELT) used this information to determine if additional steps were necessary to protect you, keep our facilities safe and operational, and stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Corbould.

“According to the disclosure results, 72% of employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In the context of the fourth wave in Alberta and rising cases in our own employees, that level is not high enough to give us confidence that we are minimizing the hazard of COVID-19 in the workplace to the greatest extent possible.

“As a result, the City of Edmonton is introducing a COVID-19 vaccination policy for all City of Edmonton employees effective today, September 20, 2021. All employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (two weeks after receiving the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine) by Nov. 15, 2021.”

Courbould said he realizes the decision is bound to set off a storm of controversy.

“While I recognize this decision may be difficult for some, I expect everyone to behave respectfully to one another as this decision is implemented. ELT made this decision, not your supervisor. We will not tolerate disrespectful or abusive behaviour or communications,” he wrote.

“This is a significant step for our organization, and an essential safety measure for keeping our workplaces safe.”

The e-mail did not contain what disciplinary actions the city would take against staff who don’t get jabbed.

Earlier this month, the City of Calgary also instituted a mandatory vaccination requirement.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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