A large one-day jump of 61 COVID-19 cases has prompted the provincial government to enact new penalties for people who don’t comply with precautionary rules.
Peace officers or health inspectors who see groups of more than 50 people, or get reports of returning travellers who have been outside the country, but aren’t self-isolating for 14 days, can now slap monetary fines on Albertans who don’t comply with these virus reduction rules.
They range from $1,000 for an individual to $100,000 for a business that’s operating with more than 50 customers. Second-time serious offences start at $500,000.
Premier Jason Kenney said that while most Albertans are taking the virus-reduction protocols seriously, some others are still not on board, so there’s a need for official penalties for non-compilers.
Businesses such as bars, nightclubs or child-care facilities (with the exception of those set up for the children of essential health-care workers) that have not closed according to provincial orders, will be subject to the fines.
Travellers who don’t comply with the manditory self-isolating requirements can also be penalized. This legal requirement also applies to people who have had close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases, as well as to any individual with symptoms, such as a fever, cough, sore throat or runny nose.
“When life returns to normal, we will no longer require these kinds of extraordinary powers, but right now, we must use every tool available to ensure public safety,” said Kenney.
On Wednesday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, reported a large spike in new coronavirus cases in the province in the past 24 hours.
The 61 additional cases in Alberta mean there are now 419 cases in total. Of those, 33 are thought to have spread through community transmissions.
The total cases include 16 in Red Deer, five in Red Deer County, two each in Lacombe and Olds, and one each in Innisfail and Stettler.
Some of the new provincial cases originated at a group home for developmentally disabled adults. One staff member and two residents were found to be infected at one of the homes, said Hinshaw.
With nine cases in continuing care facilities in the province, there are now public health orders for staff and visitor screenings at these facilities, as well as for Red Deer’s Michener Centre.
Group homes and drug and alcohol treatment centres fall under the orders issued for long-term care homes, which can have only one designated visitor per resident. Visitors must get temperature checked at the entry to the facility and answer a short questionnaire about their health status.
Kenney believes Alberta is in a good position to respond to the health-care needs of citizens when virus cases peak in the coming weeks. There are 580 ventilators in the province, including ones for children. And there are 50 more on order.
But Hinshaw cautioned Albertans about the need to change holiday traditions with the onset of Easter, Passover and Ramadan.
“Now is not the time for large family gatherings,” said Hinshaw — especially visits to the grandparents. She discouraged people from travelling out of their homes for visits, but suggested Skype-ing or connecting by phone instead.
At any communal meal, she said one person should be the server so that multiple people aren’t touching the serving spoon, which can be a transmitter of the virus.
She also discouraged family members from sharing the same snack bowls.