January 17th, 2021

Residents urged to remain diligent during pandemic

By Woodard, Dale on October 15, 2020.

Emergency Preparedness Manager Luke Palmer, alongside Mayor Chris Spearman, met with reporters Wednesday as Lethbridge has seen a recent spike in new COVID-19 cases placing the city under “watch” status. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald

As COVID-19 cases hit triple digits in Lethbridge, the City of Lethbridge is asking residents to remain diligent in the face of the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, Lethbridge showed active COVID cases at 112 – including 52 new cases over the long weekend and another 22 Wednesday – putting Lethbridge on the Alberta Health Service Watch Status for more than 50 active cases per 100,000 population.

Cavendish Farms confirmed on Wednesday that 10 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at its Lethbridge plant and all affected employees are self-isolating as recommended by public health and safety guidelines.

And on Thursday the Holy Spirit School Division reported outbreaks at Ecole St. Mary, St. Francis and St. Teresa of Calcutta Schools. Ecole La Verendrye also remains listed on the province’s outbreak list.

“The watch means we’ve hit 50 per capita. So once we hit 50 we’re moved into the Watch category. Being at 101 doesn’t make it any worse, it just means we’re still on a watch based on a per-capita case count,” said Luke Palmer, director of emergency management for the City of Lethbridge, referring to the weekend numbers Wednesday at city hall.

“It really increases our collaboration with Alberta Health Services. Right now AHS has moved us into a watch and that’s just based on several outbreaks they’ve identified throughout the South Zone. Not a whole lot changes for us, it just moves into the diligence of making sure we’re encouraging the population to adhere to contact tracing requirements.

“Everyone associated with these outbreaks will be contacted by Health Services, provided testing requirements and insolation instructions as well. We’re asking the public to work with AHS to make sure those are adhered to when recommended by those callers, either from 811 or testing centres. To protect the confidentiality of our patients, AHS does not share the specific information into those outbreaks. We have basically the same amount of information the public has at this time.”

Palmer said the City continues to follow the guidelines from AHS. That goes into facilities as well as public transit.

“That’s to ensure the safety of not only our staff, but the residents who are entering these facilities including our transit buses.”

As well, the City mandatory masking bylaw remains in place in all public spaces.

“It is also encouraged that people mask up when they cannot maintain physical distancing as well,” said Palmer. “We’re keeping up with the guidance as it changes as it is still quite a fluid situation and we’ll be sure to update everyone as those do change.”

With the recent surge, Palmer said bylaws will remain the same as the City stays in close collaboration with AHS and the provincial operation centre to see if new measures will be implemented.

“But at this point we can’t really speak to those because we’re waiting for more provincial direction,” he said. “We’re just trying to keep up with the science that’s being provided to us. It’s a virus that we just don’t have all the information on at this time. One thing we’ve noticed is the science and medicine community has seen an increase in research and development of things. So we’re really hopeful that as those initiatives continue we start getting more clarity. At this time we’re going to look toward those subject matter experts to start guiding where we’re going next.”

Mayor Chris Spearman said the rising numbers should be a wakeup call to everyone.

“We want to keep our businesses open and we want to keep each other safe. It’s really important to follow the guidelines from the medical officer of health, maintain six feet distance from others when out in public, wash your hands often and well, maintain a limited cohort group and wear a mask, particularly when you can’t maintain physical distancing.

“City staff are taking extra precautions by wearing a mask in all indoor work settings except when alone in a work space like an office where they are safely distanced from others. We’ve seen Dr. Hinshaw again emphasize (Tuesday) to follow these practices and it’s really important that we do that in the City of Lethbridge.”

Spearman said he believes residents are following the mask bylaw.

“In my own informal and scientific observations I see very few that aren’t, especially when I go to the shopping areas. There are exceptions, but most are following.”

Still, the increased numbers should still serve as a reminder.

“I think it’s very much a threat to everybody in the City of Lethbridge,” said Spearman. “I just ask for everybody’s co-operation. It’s very important that we as a community collectively respond in the best possible way.”

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