Alberta has reported 230 new cases of COVID-19 over the past three days.
On Monday, the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said there were 54 new cases of the virus reported on Friday, 96 new cases on Saturday, and 80 additional cases on Sunday, totalling 230.
According to the latest provincial update, the number of central Alberta COVID-19 cases has jumped in many communities: The City of Red Deer has nine active cases, Red Deer County has two, the County of Stettler has six, Lacombe County has two, Ponoka County has two, Mountain View County has three and Kneehill County has one.
Hinshaw noticed there’s been a particular increase in younger people with the virus, particularly in the 20-39 age group.
“We all have a role in protecting each other,” added Hinshaw, so while the province has not mandated mask-wearing, she feels “it’s the right thing to do” in indoor spaces where keeping a two-metre distance from others is not possible.
Premier Jason Kenney said the province has made another 20 million masks available to citizens. They are once again being handed out through A&W, McDonalds and Tim Hortons drive-thrus or inside counters.
“After consulting with our restaurant partners, we determined that in-store pickup could be done safely,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
Kenney raised concerns about the “large crowds” of beach-goers at Sylvan Lake on Saturday, saying this is not the time for dense gatherings.
People were grouped “very close together” along the lakeshore of the popular central Alberta resort town, said Kenney.
While this might be understandable during a nice weekend in more usual times, Kenney added it’s risky behaviour during a pandemic, raising opportunities for viral spreading.
People who pack public beaches and do not wear masks in grocery stores stand to jeopardize the good progress made so far in reducing the number of COVID-19 cases in the province, said Kenney.
The pandemic has cost Alberta 161 lives and many business shutdowns since measures were put in place in mid-March.
Although everybody wants the province to fully reopen, and life to get back to normal once an effective vaccine is developed, Kenney stressed, “We are not done with COVID-19 … our future success depends on us not letting down our guard.”
He said no date has been established for the province’s Stage 3 reopening yet.
While the Town of Sylvan Lake has bylaws officers patrolling the beach to enforce two metres of space between different parties, the municipality has indicated it could use more help from the RCMP or the province in enforcing distancing guidelines.
Shandro said the province has put enforcement orders in place.
Hinshaw added that discussions will be held this week with municipalities that are dealing with heavy weekend crowds, such as Sylvan Lake and Alberta Beach.
The province needs to understand what their challenges are and “how we can work together ” to find solutions, she said.