Red Deer is rapidly approaching the number of COVID-19 cases that would allow the city to request a curfew.
On April 29, Premier Jason Kenney announced that curfews could be imposed in municipalities where the virus case rate exceeds 1,000 per 100,000 people and if the local governments ask for one.
As of Thursday, Red Deer, a city of about 101,000, had 840 active COVID-19 cases.
So far city council has not discussed a curfew and a statement from the city said: “At this time, the City of Red Deer has not implemented a curfew, but as always, we will continue to explore options and do what is necessary based on provincial direction.”
City councillor Buck Buchanan said unless it’s absolutely critical, he would say no to a curfew.
He said some people are already pushing back against restrictions, becoming more militant, so compliance would be an issue for them.
“Somebody that’s going to obey the rules, is going to obey them. Somebody that’s not, they’re not,” Buchanan said.
“I can certainly see the intent. But I think you’re just going to inflame people.”
Curfew enforcement would be difficult. Where would police find the resources? How would a curfew impact those doing shift work, or the homeless, Buchanan asked.
Councillor Vesna Higham said she did not support discussing a curfew at this stage of the pandemic for two reasons.
“While I certainly I always remain open at any options we may have to look at, this has to be orchestrated by the province and not downloaded on a piecemeal basis on municipalities,” Higham said.
“This pandemic, at the end of the day is a health issue which of course is the responsibility of the province, and it should be co-ordinated by the province in a holistic, integrated, unified manner.”
Secondly, case numbers may be increasing which is serious, but the finish line is also very close, she said.
“We are weeks, perhaps a couple months away, from the point at which vaccines will overpower rising case numbers.”
More people are now eligible for vaccines, and they signing up for appointments, she said.
Councillor Lawrence Lee agreed that the province downloaded the responsibility of curfews onto municipalities without determining logistics like travel and trade patterns, and curfew borders.
“If we would have had a clear leadership and direction from a provincial health perspective, Red Deer and all other Alberta municipalities from the get-go, that may have mitigated the situation we’re in right now,” Lee said.
Thankfully Red Deer doesn’t need a curfew because patios and other outdoor areas aren’t crowded late into the night like they are in big cities, he said.
Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said the city is already dealing with increasing polarity.
“We have enough of that right now. Let’s focus on what we can do, and respecting the people doing the right thing. That’s what we need to do right now, not put more measures right now on people doing the right thing,” Wyntjes said.
She said times are challenging, change is hard, and governments are doing the best they can during an unprecedented time.
“My mom’s 97. She says, ‘I remember reading about the plague in schools.’ This is ours now, so how will we look when history writes our story — coming together or not.
“Everybody’s individual actions help.”