A COVID testing centre has been set up in the parking lot at the Ponoka Community Health Centre on Hwy. 2A. Testing is by appointment only. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)

A COVID testing centre has been set up in the parking lot at the Ponoka Community Health Centre on Hwy. 2A. Testing is by appointment only. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)

Ponoka councils discuss confusion over COVID-19 case numbers

Town says mandatory mask bylaw would be ‘premature’ until numbers better understood

Ponoka town council needs a clearer picture of the actual number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in town before it can decide if a bylaw to mandate masks is necessary.

That was the conclusion of a discussion brought forward by Coun. Kevin Ferguson during council’s regular meeting on Oct. 27.

“I am concerned that the way in which the numbers for COVID-19 are reported, which draws in the county, the town, and then of course Maskwacis as well,” said Ferguson.

“I find it very difficult to deal with, especially when people in the community, our citizens, are asking me ‘What about the numbers?’”

Ferguson suggested council compose a letter to the MLA, asking if there was a way that the numbers could be separated.

“It is confusing,” he said.

“When somebody’s really concerned and they’re afraid, and they’re asking what are the numbers, and you say, you have to consider this and this — by that time … the damage is already done because you’ve already created doubt there.”

“I don’t think this is purposeful on behalf of anyone else,” he said, adding he feels it’s more due to a misunderstanding in larger centres about how smaller, rural communities operate.

“We, as a rural community, have certain needs and these needs are not being met.”

Tim Schmidt, general manager of planning and infrastructure, says that administration has made contact with Alberta Health Services (AHS) representatives, and had the discussion about the implications of the information in the geospatial mapping available on alberta.ca.

“We’re not the only municipality passing on this information to the province, about the information and the impact that it’s having on us, both economically, resource-wise and otherwise.”

Schmidt also says they’ve made contact with Edmonton, and the “parties that are sharing the information and the administration there.”

“I wouldn’t take my foot off the gas until we get what we need,” said Ferguson, stating he still believes the town should send a letter to the province.

“I’m fully in favour of your letter to the province,” said Mayor Rick Bonnett.

“They have dropped the ball and they are they ones that should be taking this into consideration, rather than leaving it to each municipality.”

The town recently put out a statement urging Ponoka residents to wear a non-medical mask while in public.

Council also discussed whether or not a mask bylaw should be mandated by the province, rather than the town, but it was decided that clarification on the numbers must be received first.

“This information is critical for us even to have a debate,” said Ferguson.

“If we’re going to debate masks, or what our next steps are, as a municipality … without facts, you can’t have a legitimate debate.”

“The number we’re seeing showing up to the hospitals are not the same numbers that are being reported on the [alberta.ca] website so we definitely do need to get a clearer picture of that first,” said Bonnett.

“To even talk about a mandatory [mask bylaw] at this time is premature.”

Ferguson put forward a motion for council to send a letter to the premier’s office, the Minister of Health, the MLA and AHS, encouraging the Government of Alberta to par down the numbers, to make them specifically reflective of the Town of Ponoka.

Ponoka County

According to Peter Hall, director of operations for Ponoka County, the county has had a number of informal conversations with the province and AHS regarding how COVID-19 cases are reported.

When Ponoka County was put on the province’s watch list a few weeks ago, the county held a conference call with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw that included Hall, Assistant CAO Tom Weber and CAO Charlie Cutforth.

From that call and other conversations, the county had some of their questions about the geospatial map answered.

Hall says that to get the most accurate regional outbreak information, that the “Local geographical area” bullet must be selected.

According to the information on alberta.ca below the geospatial map, “Geographies can be displayed by municipality or local geographic area (LGA). When viewing by municipality, regions are defined by metropolitan areas, cities, urban service areas, rural areas, and towns with approximately 10,000 or more people; smaller regions (i.e. villages, and reserves) are incorporated into the corresponding rural area.”

This means that if the “Municipality” option is selected, communities smaller than 10,000 people will be included in the surrounding municipal district.

With the different ways numbers have been reported, it has caused confusion, which has had an affect on Ponoka County and other communities, such as the Town of Ponoka, and Maskwacis, says Hall.

“It would be a wonderful thing if they were accurate to what the boundaries actually are,” he said.

Hall praised the way Maskwacis Health Services and the Four Nations have handled the pandemic since March, with their transparency and consistent messaging.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Maskwacis Health Services,” he said.

“They’ve done a great job.”

Alberta Health

Tom McMillan, assistant director of communications for Alberta Health, explained that when on the “Local geographic area” setting, the map goes as “north as Usona, and as south as Morningside. The western limit is just past Crestomere and the western limit is around Range Rod 221.

“The online map offers two views: local geographic area and municipality view. The local geographic area mapping is organized according to an internal mapping system utilized by AHS. This is a well-established system and the zoning areas have been in place for some time. A link to the map and policy is available online,” said McMillan.

“The municipality view on the online map is organized largely along the county lines, but does include some cases within Maskwacis.”

As of 1 p.m. on Nov. 4, the geospatial map, when on the “Local geographic area” setting, was reporting 22 active cases in Ponoka (East County Ponoka) and two in Ponoka (West Ponoka County and partial Lacombe County).

MHS reported eight active cases as of Nov. 3, via their Facebook page.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusPonoka CountyTown of Ponoka

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

skip2
Rimbey Christian School students experience the joy of giving

Grades three and four students raised $2,000 for Somalian children

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Bids for Kids poster
Wolf Creek Youth Foundation online auction gets ‘overwhelming’ response

Santa’s Bids for Kids auction to benefit youth programs in Rimbey, Ponoka

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

The Red Deer Games Foundation has made changes to its grant program as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo supplied)
Red Deer Games Foundation adjusts grant program due to COVID-19 pandemic

The foundation postponed the spring 2020 grant program due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

skip2
Rimbey Christian School students experience the joy of giving

Grades three and four students raised $2,000 for Somalian children

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

Most Read