Smoke haze from forest fires burning in Alberta and British Columbia hangs over Banff, Alta., in Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. Visitors to Banff National Park in Alberta will soon have to reserve a spot for a shuttle bus to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Banff seeks details but lukewarm on COVID-19 curfew other regions say no for now

EDMONTON — The mayor of Alberta’s Rocky Mountain resort town of Banff is looking for more details on implementing a possible COVID-19 curfew.

But Karen Sorensen questions whether such a drastic measure would even make a difference.

“Our late-night or even earlier-in-the-night activity is minimal in Banff at this point,” Sorensen said Friday.

“Restaurants and bars aren’t open and there just aren’t a lot of people out and about.”

Sorensen noted the province has promised other help, with more vaccines arriving next week along with expanded ages of eligibility.

Banff is one of a handful of regions with COVID-19 case rates so high they could apply to the province for a curfew.

The curfew was part of a suite of measures introduced by Premier Jason Kenney late Thursday to reduce high infection rates now squeezing the health system.

Curfews would be allowed where the case rate is above one in 100. Banff is just over that threshold.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes the city of Fort McMurray, has a rate of 1.5 — Alberta’s highest. It, too, is getting more vaccines.

Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott said they are not requesting a curfew, adding “any (future) move in that direction would be discussed at a public meeting with public input.”

The County of Barrhead, northwest of Edmonton, with a case rate of 1.02, is not considering a curfew.

Reeve Douglas Drozd said it’s a busy time of year with farmers seeding their fields and hauling cattle out to pasture, and not the time to “get in the way.”

Northern Sunrise County also said it will not be pursuing a curfew, noting it has a small population spread over a wide area.

Alberta has seen well over 1,000 new cases a day for weeks and surpassed 2,000 on Thursday and again on Friday. There have been 2,082 deaths.

Total active cases are a record 21,828. There are 649 people in hospital, including 152 in intensive care.

Hospitals are cancelling non-urgent surgeries, ramping up capacity for an expected influx of patients.

Also Friday, doctors were briefed on the triage protocol should the system become so overwhelmed, life-and-death choices must be made.

Dr. Shazma Mithani, who works in two Edmonton emergency departments, said it was sobering.

“We thought we would never have to make decisions like that … who gets to have ICU bed versus who doesn’t,” said Mithani.

“I don’t think people necessarily understand the moral distress that a decision like that has on us. Our mandate is to do the best we can for our patients. Never do harm.”

Calgary emergency room doctor Joe Vipond said rising COVID numbers reflect government policy failure.

“We’ve avoided making the hard decisions of putting in strong restrictions and kicking the can down the road and this is what you get — you get exponential growth.”

Kenney as late as Monday rejected implementing new restrictions, saying the existing ones would be fine if people followed them, adding that any new rules would likely be ignored by a COVID-fatigued populace.

But on Thursday, Kenney said there would be new rules for hot spots, saying health restrictions are critical to bending the curve.

The rules apply to areas seeing more than 3.5 cases for every 1,000 residents along with having at least 250 active cases. Those regions include Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie, Red Deer, Fort McMurray and Lethbridge.

For at least the next two weeks, all students in grades 7-12 will study remotely.

All indoor fitness activities are cancelled. Indoor recreation facilities must close.

The Opposition NDP said moving classes home on such short notice is another example of a government writing pandemic policy on the fly, with parents and caregivers paying the price.

NDP critic Shannon Phillips said Kenney is trying to mollify anti-lockdown critics in his base and in his United Conservative caucus at the expense of Albertans’ health.

“That is, I think the most stunning abrogation of the public interest from Mr. Kenney and shows the weakest of leadership,” said Phillips.

Kenney faces severe criticism from almost half his backbench legislature members for the existing restrictions, which include no indoor social gatherings and sharp curtailment at stores and worship services.

In early April, 18 of them publicly challenged the rules as an unnecessary infringement on personal freedoms.

One of the dissidents, Cypress-Medicine Hat member Drew Barnes, issued a public letter Friday objecting to the new rules.

Barnes, in an interview, said the province has failed to provide any information to justify to him or to his constituents why the rules need to be applied to low-case areas.

“My constituents have been calling for more transparency,” said Barnes.

Phillips said Barnes is endangering public health and called for him to be fired from the UCP caucus. Barnes said he has the confidence of those who elected him.

Kenney has refused to sanction the dissidents, saying they don’t speak for the government and that he respects free speech.

Kenney also said Thursday renewed efforts for front-line restaurant staff to check and ensure those dining on patios are all from the same household, as per health rules.

Ernie Tsu, owner of Trolley 5 Restaurant and Brewery in Calgary, said they want more details to make sure wait staff aren’t overburdened.

“It’s up to us as owners and managers to ensure that we’re not putting them in harm’s way or into a situation that they’re having to ask or dig for people’s IDs,” said Tsu.

Just Posted

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Red life-ring with splash
Started from the bottom: How a family business started and grew in central Alberta

By Carina Moran We started our business in the basement of our… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Police fire tear gas on banned Palestinian march in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French riot police fired tear gas and used water… Continue reading

Photo by The Associated Press
NYC Pride parade bans police; Gay officers ‘disheartened’

NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of New York City’s Pride events said… Continue reading

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

WAYNE, Alta. — Built during the First World War, it survived the… Continue reading

A letter from a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 is shown in an undated handout photo. A team of researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to solve the mystery of whether a letter in a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 was indeed from a young victim of Titanic shipwreck or simply a hoax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, N. Beaudry, UQAR *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Real or hoax? Quebec scholars probe mystery letter allegedly from Titanic passenger

MONTREAL — Researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to… Continue reading

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication between the federal Transport Department and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding passenger refunds throws into question the independence of the CTA, an arm’s-length body. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emails reveal close communication between government, transport regulator on refunds

OTTAWA — Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication… Continue reading

Most Read