Hundreds of COVID care packages to be handed out in northeast Calgary

Hundreds of families in northeast Calgary will receive care packages from COVID care teams this week.

Several community organizations help with outreach and overcoming cultural barriers

Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard announces the COVID teams program on Tuesday. (Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)

Hundreds of families in northeast Calgary will receive care packages from COVID care teams this week.

The efforts are part of the province's new initiative to support residents living in communities with the highest rates of COVID-19.

The new supports will target 11 Alberta communities, which includes upper and lower northeast Calgary, which covers the entire quadrant east of Deerfoot Trail.

It also comes with free accommodation and meals at six Calgary hotels designated for self-isolation.

Several Calgary organizations will play a vital role in the project, including Immigrant Services Calgary.

'We are ingrained with the community and we understand the clients,' says Hyder Hassan, CEO of Immigrant Services Calgary. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

That organization's CEO, Hyder Hassan, says the collaboration will help reach more Albertans and newcomers who might be experiencing language or cultural barriers.

"We are ingrained with the community and we understand the clients, and our front-line heroes from all these agencies in the collaboration know the inside outs of the issues. For example, things like multigenerational homes," he said.

Packages include translation cards

Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard says the outreach will involve handing out masks, hand sanitizer and translation cards that provide important COVID-19 information.

"We wanted to make sure that what we do at the doors is culturally appropriate and that it is perceived as a support and not in any way a threat or a concern to the citizens."

As well, she says, there will be a translator in case citizens have any questions about restrictions or supports.

"'How do I know, for example, if I need to self-isolate?' If this is news to them … then we have people who can speak their language," she said.

Allard says access to the hotel is provided when someone must isolate but cannot do so at home. 

People will also be eligible for temporary emergency payments of $625 after completing self-isolation at one of the hotels.

Stigma and discrimination

University of Calgary sociology professor Jenny Godley says she's worried this type of targeted outreach could cause stigma and discrimination.

"I think we have to be really careful to obviously say that that's not OK, and to highlight that if there is a racial patterning to this, it has to do with the other social determinants of health that are connected to race and the infectious nature of this particular disease."

Godley lists education, employment, housing, income and access to care as factors that can drive infections.

The government itself said the communities across the province receiving packages and additional help all have higher prevalence of more people working in public-facing, high-risk jobs, higher density living arrangements, below average incomes, lack of supports and/or language barriers. 

Allard says the program will be evaluated in six weeks to determine whether or not it's effective and should continue. 


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