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COVID-19: Alberta is the only province without a mask mandate. What is the impact on public perception? – Global News

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As Canada wades deeper into the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta is the only province to hold out against implementing a provincial mask mandate.

According to sociologist Dr. Amy Kaler, that could be contributing to some Albertans’ complacency, and in certain cases defiance, of pandemic-related public health measures and municipal mask bylaws.

Read more:
‘Our situation is grim’: Alberta breaks daily record for COVID-19 cases Friday, sees 11 new deaths

“It looks arbitrary,” she said of the “patch work” of various mask bylaws, restrictions and public health measures in place in different parts of the province.

“It looks like… these are just weird, made up rules. Do we have a different virus in Edmonton than we do in Fort MacLeod?”

As of Friday, Alberta had 10,655 active cases of COVID-19. Of those, 8,960 — or nearly 82 per cent, have an unknown exposure to the virus, meaning contact tracers can’t pinpoint where or how the person contracted it.

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Kaler said it’s hard for people to make sense of having a “magic line” on the map where in one jurisdiction, people have strict cohort restrictions or there are curfews on restaurants and bars, but other municipalities have more relaxed guidelines.


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‘Where was the premier?’: Alberta political scientist questions Kenney’s absence amid COVID-19 spike


‘Where was the premier?’: Alberta political scientist questions Kenney’s absence amid COVID-19 spike

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“The key with public health messaging… it has to be factual, clear, simple,” she said.

“And having these regulations here, there and all over, created by different groups of people with, what looks superficially to be kind of meaningless distinctions between one place and another — that’s the opposite of evidence based, clear and simple.”

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Kaler said the government sets the baseline when it comes to things like public health measures, and said it’s time for a “strong statement” on masking, and other virus mitigation measures, as COVID-19 cases become more generalized throughout the population. Doing so, she said, would enhance public trust in the government’s pandemic response.

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“I think it’s a real dereliction of duty to to keep going back to: ‘Toughen up, be smart, make make the right choices, make the right decisions,” she said.

“I think that a display of resolve and commitment to something other than, ‘Well, individuals make their own choices,’ would be really important.”


Click to play video 'Alberta Federation of Labour calling for lockdown amid COVID-19 spike'



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Alberta Federation of Labour calling for lockdown amid COVID-19 spike


Alberta Federation of Labour calling for lockdown amid COVID-19 spike

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In an emailed statement, Alberta Health spokesperson Zoe Cooper said the government’s focus is on urging Albertans to follow public health measures, including new ones introduced last week “specifically targeted to reduce the spread in areas where we are seeing an increase in cases.”

“Reducing the spread requires reducing the amount of time that Albertans socialize in close contact and we cannot monitor what people choose to do within their homes,” Cooper said. “We need Albertans to answer the call by following the measures in place and limit social and close contacts.”

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Cooper said the government supports the jurisdictions that have mandated masks, and will continue to closely monitor COVID-19 data and consider if adjustments are needed to the current approach.


Click to play video 'How is Alberta doing a week into the new targeted COVID-19 restrictions?'



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How is Alberta doing a week into the new targeted COVID-19 restrictions?


How is Alberta doing a week into the new targeted COVID-19 restrictions?

When asked about a mask mandate on Friday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said “no decision has been made on whether a mask mandate would be part of any additional measures in the province.”

“We are watching neighbouring provinces and looking at the evidence so that we can consider options based on the evidence of effectiveness as well as the context in Alberta,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that provinces don’t “need permission or direction from the federal government” to implement measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“I know that there are certain regions who have made decisions to protect and to close their own borders. The Atlantic bubble certainly didn’t happen because the federal government mandated it. The provinces in the Atlantic stepped up and limited travel in their bubble and it has worked very, very well,” Trudeau said.

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“They just did what worked for them. Our northern territories have regularly brought in restrictions to protect themselves as well. Provinces have lots of tools at their disposal.”

Read more:
British Columbia imposes province-wide travel restrictions

Cooper said “no single strategy can control this pandemic,” adding that non-medical masks are one tool the government encourages Albertans to use.

“Masks alone are not enough to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Cooper said. “Physical distancing is crucial to continuing to limit the spread of the virus.”


Click to play video 'Hinshaw assures Albertans there are enough ICU beds for COVID-19'



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Hinshaw assures Albertans there are enough ICU beds for COVID-19


Hinshaw assures Albertans there are enough ICU beds for COVID-19

Kaler also said that without a mask mandate, the province is putting retailers, those in the hospitality industry and places like grocery stores and pharmacies in a position where they’re responsible for enforcing regulations.

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“That’s not their job,” she said.

“The job of ensuring that people are wearing masks, that we’re doing what we know, scientifically, has been shown to reduce COVID-19 and to turn this around — that job belongs to the provincial government.”

Kaler said the province also needs to “drain the political energy out of masks and the idea that you’re making a statement by wearing one or not wearing one.

“A provincial bylaw, I think, could help to move masks out of the category of: this [is a] political symbol, that if you’re wearing one, it means X, Y and Z about you,” she said.

“This is not a political symbol, this is just like a seatbelt. This is like what you do because it makes everybody safer.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Prairie Harm Reduction temporarily closing due to COVID-19 case – Global News

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Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR) is temporarily closing its doors due to a coronavirus case.

The closure, which also affects the safe consumption site, will last for two weeks.

The Saskatoon-based organization posted on its Facebook page Monday morning that a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

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PHR said the decision to close is the safest option.

The organization added that it allows for the quickest return to normalcy.

PHR’s safe consumption site, the first of its kind in Saskatchewan, opened its doors last month.

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Sask.’s 1st supervised consumption site opens as overdose deaths spike – Oct 1, 2020

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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2 more New Brunswick schools confirm cases of COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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Two more schools in New Brunswick have confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to four since last week, and nine since the school year began.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said administrators at Montgomery Street School in Fredericton and Centreville Community School, north of Hartland, issued notices to parents over the weekend.

The two schools are now working with New Brunswick Public Health to identify students and school personnel who might have been exposed to the virus.

Over the weekend, one case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Simonds High School in Saint John and another at Hampton Middle School. Harbour View High School in Saint John confirmed a possible exposure to the illness.

Students in Grade 7 at Hampton Middle School will start virtual learning this week

But public schools won’t close as they did this past spring, when COVID-19 first made an appearance in New Brunswick, Cardy told Information Morning Fredericton. Early in the pandemic, not as much was known about the coronavirus, but things are different now and such a broad shutdown of schools isn’t considered necessary.

“The goal could never be to have everything completely shut down indefinitely,” Cardy said. 

“It was always to be as safe as possible and operating as close to normally as possible.”

Cardy said there is a single COVID-19 contact at Montgomery Street School, and everyone in the school has been notified. Letters to parents have also been sent out.

“That person is being isolated. We don’t believe there’s a further risk at this time.” 

‘Don’t panic’ 

Cardy said he is trying to be as transparent as possible. And if parents haven’t received any emails from their child’s school or district, that’s a good sign.

“When you hear from Public Health … don’t panic. Just listen to what they have to say. And follow the steps.”

Cardy made it clear that  schools will move to online learning right away if there are any risks to students or if the number of cases increases. 

He said his department has been working in conjunction with Public Health, which is ” constantly looking at the data” related to COVID-19.

“We’ll be ready to move on a moment’s notice if they give us the word that we have to make a shift.”

In July, Cardy announced all high school students in New Brunswick would have to use their own electronic devices. A $7 million subsidy program to help low- and middle-income families buy computers was launched July 31. 

But Cardy also said there could be challenges with the new online system.

“Anything brand new … I’m sure there will be issues with it.”

COVID-19 in schools

Cardy said he will continue working with districts and the New Brunswick Teachers’ Union and representatives of other workers in the school system.

“Making sure those communication lines are working as smoothly as possible,” he said.

“You’ve got a lot of moving pieces here.”

More cases of COVID-19

New Brunswick officials announced six new cases of COVID-19 in the province Sunday.

The new cases bring the total of active infections in the province to 77. One person is in hospital related to the virus.

That announcement follows a significant rise in the Moncton and Saint John regions, including a single-day high for the province on Saturday when 23 cases were reported.

The Moncton and Saint John regions returned to tighter restrictions under the orange phase last week.

“We are not through COVID yet,” he said.

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Makeshift graveyard constructed outside of Alberta health minister's office – CTV Toronto

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CALGARY —
Rows of cardboard grave markers lined the grass across the street from Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s office in southwest Calgary Monday morning.

The signs, erected in the grass on the west side of Macleod Trail, criticized the province’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and placed blame on the provincial government for the recent spike in confirmed cases.

The individual or group responsible for the makeshift graveyard has not been identified.

The province announced 1,584 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday, continuing Alberta’s four-day streak of establishing record highs for new case counts. Alberta’s new case count was the most amongst all provinces.

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