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Banff not part of new targeted provincial restrictions

“With the very serious situation in our community, we urge everyone to follow the public health measures in place to stop the curve.”
20210424 Banff Avenue 0054
Pedestrians walk along Banff Avenue on Saturday (April 24). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

BANFF – Despite having the second higher case rate in Alberta, the Town of Banff was not part of the new restrictions announced Thursday by the province.

The new targeted restrictions focus on municipalities or regions where 350 or more cases per 100,000 people have been confirmed and there are 250 active cases.

Banff has an active case rate of 1,115 per 100,000 people, but falls short of the 250 active case threshold with 150 active cases.

The province has given communities who have more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people the option to ask for a curfew.

In a Facebook post, the Town stated they are “not contemplating a curfew at this time,” and are awaiting additional information and advice from Alberta Health in the coming days.

“With the very serious situation in our community, we urge everyone to follow the public health measures in place to stop the curve.”

In other provinces, stricter announcements of curfews and extra powers to police services have been met with significant resistance, with many noting it’s a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and it does little to curb the virus’ spread.

After the Quebec government announced an 8 p.m. curfew in Montreal, peaceful demonstrations broke out across the city in opposition to the announcement. The government has since said the curfew will be pushed back to 9:30 p.m.

In Ontario, the Progressive Conservative government under Doug Ford gave police services authority to stop and question people leave home as well as restricting movement between the borders with Manitoba and Quebec.

The announcement was uniformly opposed as much of the province pushed back, including dozens of municipal police services resoundly saying they would not enforce the order. The government eventually scaled back the order, but Ontario’s border with Manitoba and Quebec continue to be monitored by the provincial police.

The Alberta government announced the new restrictions would last for at least two weeks and be lifted only when the municipality dips below the targeted line.

The public health restrictions come as COVID-19 cases, particularly variants of concern, have accelerated across Alberta.

There are 21,828 active cases, 649 people hospitalized and 152 in intensive care, the province announced Thursday. Of the active cases, 13,440 are variants of concern. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,082 people have died from COVID-19 in Alberta.

Nearly a third of the population - 28.3 per cent - have received their first vaccine dose and 6.6 per cent of the province is fully vaccinated.

“I know Albertans, even those who have faithfully followed the health guidance and worked to keep not only themselves but their fellow citizens safe, are tired,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said in a release. “But if we can muster the strength to make it through these next few weeks, we will allow our vaccination program a chance to protect more Albertans, and in end, we will get COVID-19 under control in Alberta.”

Tyler Shandro, the minister of health, noted areas of the province are seeing higher spread than others and the restrictions are needed.

"To get cases in these municipalities under control, we must take additional action. By following these new restrictions and ramping up our vaccination program, we will be successful in winning this fight.”

Earlier in the week, Town staff raised concerns of the popular tourist town having more cases than being reported. Part of that is due to the transient nature of the workforce who come from other provinces to work and continue to have health cards from other regions.

This comes shortly after the province announced 30,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine would be sent to Banff and Wood Buffalo they arrive in Alberta. The eligibility to receive the vaccine would be lowered to 30, but was met with criticism due to a large number of the service industry being in their 20s.

The Town’s case rate per 100,000 people is second only the the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo - which includes Fort McMurray - have 1,283 active cases and 1,537 cases per 100,000 people.

Canmore has 54 active cases for an active case rate of 326 per 100,000 people, while the MD of Bighorn has six active cases.

The Town of Banff also called a special council meeting for Monday afternoon with the purpose being to receive updated information on the pandemic.

Banff’s highest reported active cases was in November when they had 192.

Alberta Health Services announced Friday they were expanding their temporary COVID-19 assessment site to immediately start running seven days a week.

The site is located in the AHS Community Health Centre at 303 Lynx St. and can have up to 100 appointments a day, according to information on the Town of Banff website.

AHS list two outbreaks in Banff. One at the Moose Hotel and Suites and the other at Sunshine Village Ski Resort. Canmore has one outbreak listed at Origin at Spring Creek, while Baymag in Exshaw is also confirmed by the province.

A spokesperson for Alberta Health said the outbreak at Sunshine Village Ski Resort involved 33 cases on April 7. In the three weeks since, two remain active and 31 have recovered. Nineteen of the cases with variants of concern.

“As with any outbreak, health officials are working closely to prevent future spread. Proven processes are being implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of everyone involved,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. "This includes conducting contact tracing and making sure that anyone at risk of exposure is contacted, isolated and tested. COVID-19 testing was also offered to staff at the Sunshine Village ski area earlier this month.”

People can visit www.ahs.ca/mybooking or call 811 to schedule a COVID-19 test.

Residents can also visit www.banff.ca/covidhelp for available support services.