Calgary officials lower flags, ticket park-goers in latest COVID-19 response

Calgary's leaders overseeing the COVID-19 pandemic response are issuing tickets, marking deaths and watching the flooding in Fort McMurray closely.

Calgary zone represents the bulk of coronavirus positive cases in Alberta

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, pictured here earlier in April, has been offering frequent updates on the city's COVID-19 response. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Calgary's leaders overseeing the COVID-19 pandemic response are issuing tickets, marking deaths and watching the flooding in Fort McMurray closely.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi told a press conference Tuesday that he doesn't know when the pandemic will end but urged all Calgarians to adhere strictly to hygiene and physical guidelines.

"We cannot risk losing the progress that we have," Nenshi said. "Every time we look for these loopholes … we run the risk of really backtracking and removing the great progress that we made."

The update from Nenshi and the Calgary Emergency Management Agency's deputy chief centred around encouraging Calgarians to keep up the effort to follow strict physical distancing. This included highlighting the number of people who've died in the Calgary zone so far.

Emergency officials also said they were offering support if needed to Fort McMurray, which evacuated its downtown residences on Monday after ice jams flooded buildings and forced officials to calls a second local state of emergency.

"I cannot even imagine having a state of emergency on top of state of emergency," Nenshi said. "We wish them well. They know what they're doing. We're here to assist."

Flags at half-mast for deaths

Calgary, together with surrounding communities, accounts for the majority of Alberta's COVID-19 cases. The Calgary zone officially has 3,257 positive cases of the nearly 4,700 across the province.

The city's flags were lowered to half-mast to mark the National Day of Mourning, which remembers those who've died from workplace injuries or illness. Nenshi said flags will remain lowered until the end of the pandemic for those who've died from COVID-19.

"I want to remember the people who we've lost," Nenshi said, adding the flags will be a reminder of the importance of physical-distancing measures.

'Flagrant' cases ticketed

The city has seen some issues related to Calgarians going outside but ignoring physical-distancing rules. Nenshi said bylaw officers are enforcing the "flagrant cases."

Over the weekend, officials issued three $1,200 tickets for "egregious" disregard of distancing in Lindsay Park, said CEMA deputy chief Sue Henry. Three men were "flagrantly ignoring" the rules, she said.

Three adults were ticketed for using a closed skate park. Others were ticketed for drinking in a public space, she said.

Officials also warned an additional 140 people for not following physical-distancing measures.

Meat-processing plant outbreak

Nenshi noted that south of the city is Canada's largest single outbreak, at the Cargill meat-processing plant, which is within the same health zone as the city. Roughly 60 per cent of those workers live in Calgary, the mayor said.

He said city officials have been helping to feed and support those employees and their families, noting that many made low wages and may be marginalized.

That outbreak epicentre showed the importance of being careful when out in public, and to act as if you are yourself a carrier.

"One outbreak in one workplace has led to hundreds and hundreds of cases," Nenshi said.

The city also faces multiple outbreaks in long-term care facilities that are home to seniors

Limit trips outside your home

Nenshi said he wants people to enjoy the outside but follow what he calls hard-and-fast rules. According to Nenshi, the only reasons you should be leaving home include:

  • Doing weekly shopping as only one member of the family.
  • Performing an essential service.
  • Volunteering to help someone.
  • Going out one hour a day to have fresh air and exercise, while physically distanced.
  • Having a physically-distanced visit with an isolated person.

He asked that Calgarians stick close to home for visits and outdoor time, and visits should be short for a quick hello.

He also noted that people with under-lying health conditions and immuno-suppressed systems must be extra cautious, and warned that two-metre distancing in public may still be dangerous for them.

"Don't think that's a magic thing that will keep you safe, and don't involve people who are at risk," Nenshi said.

He also specifically said no children should be having play dates.

Nenshi and Henry urged people to call 311 or the police non-emergency line for questions or complaints. Over the past three days, officials received more than 1,500 such calls, Henry said.

In the last public update by CEMA, officials extended a ban on city-permitted events until Aug. 31.


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