BANFF – As Alberta continues to face an unprecedented health-care crisis, Banff National Park appears to be on a downward trajectory of active cases during this fourth COVID-19 wave.
The Banff and Lake Louise region accounts for 10 of the 19,456 province-wide active cases as of Oct. 5. In neighbouring Canmore, there are 21 active cases, and eight in the MD of Bighorn, which includes Stoney Nakoda, Lac Des Arcs, Harvie Heights and Exshaw.
Alison Gerrits, a director with the Town of Banff’s emergency management team, said 40 cases were diagnosed in the Banff-Lake Louise region during September compared to 215 in August.
“We’ll see what happens in October, but so far it’s looking like we’ll hopefully be less than what we saw in September,” she said during a briefing to town council on Monday (Oct. 4).
“With the height of 156 cases on Aug. 17, we have been sort of stabilized in terms of the number of cases.”
During council’s meeting – the final one before the Oct. 18 municipal election – Silvio Adamo, the Town’s director of emergency management, praised the mayor and council for their leadership during the COVID-19 crisis of the last year-and-a-half.
“Thank you for all the leadership and support this council has provided in the management of this pandemic,” he said. “Your commitment in caring for our community has been exemplary.”
Since the pandemic began, Banff and Lake Louise have recorded 1,097 cases of COVID-19, which includes 10 active cases, 1,086 recoveries and the death of a 43-year-old man.
Gerrits said people are continuing to be tested for the virus, including 197 tests over the week of Sept. 27-Oct. 3 compared to 282 the week before and 257 the week prior.
“The interesting note is that this is the first week since the beginning of school where we’ve noticed a decrease in the percentage of total tests conducted by those under 18,” she said.
“At this point in time we have not been made aware of any positive cases under 18 years old, other than one since the beginning of September, so that is very good news for our area.”
The same cannot be said for Alberta as a whole.
Provincial data shows the average case count per 100,000 province-wide for children aged five to 11 is 70 and children aged 12 to 19 is 40.
“So far we are lucky to not have been experiencing that in the same manner,” Gerrits said.
“Of course, that five- to 11-year-old group is that group that is unvaccinated and currently in school.”
On Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 5), the Alberta government announced it is resuming public reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools, initiating contact notification in schools, clarifying COVID-19 outbreak definitions, providing rapid testing kits and encouraging school authorities to have proof of COVID-19 vaccination policies for adults.
"The actions we are taking right now will help students to continue learning safely in person as we combat this fourth wave," said Adriana LeGrange, Alberta's education minister.
Banff and Lake’s Louise’s vaccination rate continues to bump up, sitting at 9,731 individuals partially vaccinated and 8,296 fully vaccinated as of Oct. 5.
Gerrits said there were 362 additional doses administered between Sept. 23-30.
“The vast majority of those doses are going to those between the ages of 20 and 39,” she said.
Of the province’s 19,456 active cases, 1,079 people are in hospital. There are 252 in intensive care, down about three per cent from last week.
“We’re still at the highest of both hospitalizations and ICUs any time during the pandemic,” Gerrits said.
Since the pandemic began, Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll is 2,778.
Gerrits said 340 deaths were recorded province-wide in September.
“The most deaths in a single month, you would have to go back to December 2020 during the second wave when there were 626,” Gerrits said.