Edmonton

Alberta's top doctor to announce new voluntary measures to curb surge in Edmonton COVID cases

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, will announce additional voluntary measures for Edmonton on Thursday that are expected to include tougher restrictions on the size of gatherings and cohorts. 

Edmonton has 1,085 of the 1,910 COVID-19 cases in Alberta

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is expected to announce new voluntary measures to restrict the spread of COVID-19 in Edmonton. (The Canadian Press)

Alberta's chief medical officer of health is set to unveil additional voluntary measures designed to slow the surge of COVID-19 cases in Edmonton.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw is expected to announce tighter restrictions on the sizes of gatherings on Thursday.

"We are going to have increased voluntary measures that we're going to be recommending for folks in Edmonton zone," Health Minister Tyler Shandro said at an unrelated news conference in Calgary on Wednesday. 

Surging case numbers in the Edmonton zone are a concern for Alberta public health officials. Of the 1,910 active cases reported in Alberta Wednesday, 1,085 were in the Edmonton area. Between Sept. 28 and Oct. 4, the Edmonton zone recorded 714 new cases.

The case numbers prompted Edmonton city administration to urge the province to take additional measures.

The city is asking for reduced limits for gatherings, encouragement for businesses to let their employees work from home, restrictions on non-essential travel and reductions in cohort sizes. 

"What is at stake is the safety of our community and the potential for overwhelming our health-care system," said interim city manager Adam Laughlin at Wednesday's city council meeting. 

Current restrictions on gatherings are 50 for indoor events, and 100 maximum for outdoor events and indoor seated gatherings.

Shandro said people may be getting weary of restrictions eight months into the pandemic.

Officials with the City of Edmonton acknowledge that fact as well. They are looking at changing their messaging and communications strategy to target groups and areas most at risk. 

Laughlin said Edmonton isn't at the point where city facilities or services need to be restricted or closed, as transmission doesn't appear to be occurring in those areas. But that could change, he said. 

"Data surveillance on escalating active case numbers still point to social gatherings, private gatherings and contact with people outside of a cohort as a major contributing factor for COVID transfer," Laughlin said. 

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the city wants to avoid returning to a lockdown because businesses are still trying to recover from the early days of the pandemic.

"That is what is at stake," Iveson told council. "We want to avoid a lockdown for reasons of liberty but I think we also can't afford another lockdown economically at this point." 

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