Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is gravely concerned about the growing COVID-19 active case numbers in the city.
With the province’s public health measures set to come into place this week and over the weekend, she hopes that will help stem the tide and prevent a strain on hospital capacity.
“With the rising and I will note the all-time high number of COVID-19 cases in our community and with a significant concern around the rate of spread, it’s affecting us all,” Veer said in a press conference Wednesday.
“Although we are all incredibly pandemic weary, we need to continue to be diligent in terms of doing all that we can ensure that we limit the spread of this virus.”
There are currently 881 active cases of COVID-19 in Red Deer and the city has added more than 150 active cases in May alone.
Overall, the Central zone has 2,888 active cases, with 63 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including nine in the ICU.
On the surface, that is only an increase of three ICU patients over the past week, but Veer added that cases haven’t translated proportionally to hospitalizations and they might still do so.
She noted COVID-19 patients in the region are being repatriated to the Red Deer Hospital.
“That is a critical number for us to be looking at because it’s not just capacity at the local hospital, for anyone who needs to go to the hospital for an emergency, so we’re trying to protect general capacity at the hospital,” she said.
“Specifically, ICU capacity because those are no doubt patients who are on ventilators fighting for their lives. The fact that that number has gone up, is of grave concern.”
With new COVID-19 restrictions set to come into effect, city manager Allan Seabrooke explained the RCMP will be actively enforcing those measures. Red Deer will be working to increase enforcement of the new restrictions, particularly with repeat offenders.
“Those that continue to not follow health regulations and put Albertans and Red Deerians at risk. Repeat offenders will be dealt with,” he said, adding that the province has increased fines for COVID-19 public health violations from $1,000 to $2,000.
Seabrooke said that includes businesses that violate public health measures. He says the city has strict bylaws that business must follow.
“We will take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the law is enforced,” he said.
He was also asked about city employees who violate COVID-19 measures. He noted city staff have and must follow public health orders on the job and outside of work, but represent the city in a responsible manner.
“Our staff are responsible during their work time to follow the rules. However, we also have codes of conduct that city employees that are representing the city, are to represent the city outside the workplace with respect and following the law,” he said.
Veer added city officials recognize the disappointment in the community with new public health measures but are hopeful people can rally around their fellow citizens over the next three weeks.
“We know this is an incredibly challenging time for many people. Yet again businesses are faced with uncertainty and some are faced with imminent closures. We have many individuals who are fighting for their lives and are fearful for their loved ones,” she said.
“Our pandemic response is very personal for people and as much as possible, I appeal to our community on behalf of council and the city operations team that we will pull together and do what we can. We have a circuit breaker and hopefully, it will be effective province-wide and for our city. We just encourage everybody to abide by the public health orders in order to mitigate community spread.”