UPDATE: In the Monday afternoon COVID-19 update by Alberta Health officials, three more active cases have been recorded for the Lac La Biche County area. The Enhnaced Measures remain in place for the municipality, with restrictions on gatherings, church services and serving times at local restaurants and bars.
LAC LA BICHE - Lac La Biche County officials are now in daily contact with Alberta Health Service (AHS) officials — after weekend increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases activated enhanced pandemic measures throughout the community. With active cases jumping overnight last Friday from nine to 11 — one more than the 10-case threshold mandated by the province for communities its size — and Monday's numbers going up to 14 active cases, the municipality joins others in the region now under enhanced COVID restrictions.
Until active cases in the municipality drop below 10, Alberta Public Health Orders will restrict social gatherings in Lac La Biche County homes to no more than 15 people. The new measures also include early closing times at local bars and restaurants, 50-person limits at weddings and funerals, mask use encouraged in all work places, restricting faith-based gatherings to 33 per cent capacity, and discouraging traveling to social gatherings outside the community.
Seniors home testing
Lac La Biche County Mayor Omer Moghrabi says local council and municipal administrators are getting regular email information updates from AHS — including updates on testing at the LacAlta Lodge seniors' home where a lockdown is currently in place after an AHS employee who visited the lodge on November 4 tested positive for COVID.
"So far there have been test of 37 residents and 20 staff," said the mayor. "All of them have come back negative."
There are still about 20 outstanding test results from LacAlta, which the mayor expects to have by Sunday.
The lodge staff and residents continue to be screened every day, continued the mayor, explaining that the daily testing of all staff and residents will continue until November 18, the mandated 14-day isolation period since the AHS worker's November 4 positive test result.
In recent days there have been comments in the community that the same AHS employee responsible for the LacAlta lockdown also had interactions inside Lac La Biche's W. J. Cadzow hospital. The mayor has heard the same comments, but says there has been no official notifications from AHS about outbreak testing at the hospital.
"Officially, there is nothing we've been told from the hospital," said Moghrabi on Saturday night, explaining that rumours and speculation won't help the situation. "The official updates help us. What we want to give is the right news. Anything we can send out that is factual — whether people like it or not — it's there."
With more than 10 active cases, Lac La Biche County joins more than 35 Alberta communities with new enhanced measures — coloured in purple on the province's online coronavirus map — including the MD of Bonnyville, the County of St. Paul, Westlock County and Smoky Lake County. In larger centres, including Fort McMurray, Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer the enhanced measures also include a two-week halt to team sports and group performances.
Going through the weekend with the new, enhanced measures in place, the mayor says he personally hasn't heard any complaints from residents or affected businesses.
"I haven't heard anything said to me," commented the mayor, adding that the new measures will hopefully create more awareness and compliance to COVID precautions in a community that until a month ago had no reported cases. "I think it's catching people's attention."
If community members can help to reduce the increasing active case numbers of what the mayor calls a "nasty, contagious virus, the enhanced measures will be removed.
"If the number drops back down under 10, then we are off the list," he said.
A Public Health Order approved by the province on November 6 that mandates the restriction on social gatherings in homes carries a penalty of $1,000. The Public Health Order approved in November that mandates social distancing carries a similar fine.
The RCMP and provincial peace officers can enforce the health orders.
Moghrabi says enforcement of the health orders and new measures is something that local community peace officers should also be able to carry out. Municipal officials are continuing discussions with Alberta's Solicitor General's office to get permissions to expand the roles of the peace officers.
With local and regional updates taking place daily, get access to notifications on COVID measures and other breaking news at www.lakelandtoday.ca