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Banff ready to respond if Stoney Nakoda needs help with COVID-19 outbreak

“I want to try and be generous with our neighbours, and if they need help, I would hope that our emergency social services people might be able to reach out," said Coun. Peter Poole
20200326 Stoney Nakoda COVID 19 0038
Stoney Nakoda remains in a state of local emergency. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO⁠

BANFF –  Banff town councillors say they are ready to offer any assistance to First Nations neighbours in Morley, where an alarming COVID-19 outbreak continues, including five deaths.

With the latest available statistics indicating there are 124 active cases of the virus at Stoney Nakoda-Morley where a state of local emergency has been declared, Councillor Peter Poole asked what the Town of Banff could do to help.

“I’ve been really concerned about the ongoing outbreak at Morley” he said during a council meeting on Monday (Jan. 25).

“I’m wondering whether they might lack the type of hotels or isolation facility that we have available at The Banff Centre and Y and if there’s any way we could assist with that,” he added.

“I want to try and be generous with our neighbours, and if they need help, I would hope that our emergency social services people might be able to reach out.”

Silvio Adamo, the Town of Banff’s director of emergency management, said Morley’s director of emergency management sits on the regional emergency management group.

“They have not articulated a request for any assistance as of yet. If anything does come up, as always our entire mutual aid group of 26 municipalities tries to support each other as best we can,” he said.

“If there is a call for help through that group or with the province, we will certainly step up and see what we can do.”

Councillor Corrie DiManno was pleased to hear this.

“I too have been watching the reports come in of what’s happening in our neighbouring community and it’s certainly worrisome to see them where they are,” she said.

“I am glad to hear we are ready to respond if needed.”

In Banff and Lake Louise, the case counts continue to remain somewhat steady, with 12 active cases as of Monday (Jan. 25), down from a high of 192 at the end of November.

There are 161 active cases in the MD of Bighorn, which includes Morley, Lac Des Arcs, Exshaw and Harvie Heights. There are nine active cases in Canmore and zero reported for Kananaskis Country.

Province-wide, there were 9,337 active cases on Jan. 25, with 362 of those reported over the previous 24 hours. Of the active cases, 637 people are in hospital and 113 in intensive care.

Jan. 25 marked the one-year anniversary of the first presumptive COVID-19 case reported in Canada.

“We’re still knee deep in this,” Adamo said. “Thankfully there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Banff and Lake Louise went past the 400 mark of confirmed COVID cases, with 402 in total since the beginning of the pandemic – 390 recovered and 12 active as of Monday.

There were five new cases diagnosed from Jan. 3-9; two new cases from Jan. 10-16 and then 11 new cases over the past seven days.

“We’re a far cry from where we were in November,” said Alison Gerrits, who sits on the emergency coordination centre.

“But as a reminder, it took 14 days to go from un-enhanced to the highest case count of active cases that our community saw,” she added.

“At any point, letting our guard down is not wise because at any moment in time we can see the trajectory move in the opposite direction.”

Given there is still community transmission, Banff council extended its commercial restrictions bylaw, which was due to expire at midnight on Jan. 25, for at least another two weeks on Feb. 8

This means cannabis and liquor stores must continue closing by 10 p.m., and restaurant and bars cannot sell alcohol beyond that time as part of their takeout pickup and delivery services.

Councillor Chip Olver said 11 of the 12 active COVID-19 cases were identified in the past week alone, meaning there is still active transmissions within the community.

“There is also this new variant, which is more contagious,” she said, referring to the U.K variant of the virus. “While we haven’t heard of any people who have tested positive for that in our community, we do know it’s in the province.”

Coun. Olver said council was also earlier told that domestic violence had been increasing, which was linked to alcohol consumption.

“The last thing we want to do is pop in and out of bylaws like that,” she said.

“The best thing to do for the safety of our community is to keep a steady hand here and keep this bylaw in place.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 testing continues to be available through at Alberta Health Services on Lynx Street every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as at the two doctors’ offices in Banff and one in Lake Louise.

Adamo said the short-term lease with Arctos and Bird, which allowed Alpine Medical Clinic to access the former yoga studio space to increase testing during the COVID-19 spike, has been terminated.

“I would like to publicly thank Arctos and Bird and Alpine Medical Clinic for stepping up when we needed them the most,” he said.

Adamo said four people are currently in the isolation facility at the YWCA.

“This facility provides all services for those folks in isolation,” he said.

“I would like to thank the Y for continuing to be a valuable partner in our COVID response.”