County joins city on provincial COVID watchlist Tuesday

·2 min read

The province moved the County of Grande Prairie on to watch status for possible enhanced measures Tuesday due to rising COVID-19 numbers.

The new status for the county follows the City of Grande Prairie’s mandatory mask bylaw coming into effect Monday, after the city and county combined surpassed 100 cases.

“The province has indicated that they won’t immediately be putting additional measures in place, instead watching local case numbers closely,” county reeve Leanne Beaupre said.

The watch status means the county passed the threshold of having more than 50 cases per 100,000 people.

At press time Wednesday noon, the province is reporting 19 active cases in the county: Four in the west county and 15 in the east and central portions.

With the Alberta government placing the county’s popu- lation at 31,319, 19 active cases equate to 60.7 per 100,000 people.

At press time, Edmonton, St. Albert, Leduc and their neighbouring municipal districts as well as Calgary are the only areas subject to enhanced measures.

These include mandatory 15-person limits on social and family gatherings in the cities of Calgary and Edmonton.

In contrast, other parts of the province have a 50-person maximum for indoor social gatherings, according to the Alberta government.

The City of Grande Prairie was moved onto the provincial watchlist two weeks ago and had 103 active cases at press time Wednesday.

The numbers were sufficient to trigger the Temporary Mandatory Face Covering (Mask) Bylaw, requiring masks in indoor spaces in the city.

The county and its neighbouring towns and villages didn’t follow the city’s lead in enacting similar mandatory mask bylaws.

According to a statement released by the city, there are a number of exceptions for the mask requirement.

These include for people working in buildings where only the employees have access.

Hospitals and schools aren’t covered by the bylaw and are encouraged to follow the guidelines of provincial authorities, according to the city.

City businesses are also required under the bylaw to display signs about mandatory masks, available to download at cityofgp.com/covid19.

According to the city, enforcement is focusing on education to begin with, but if residents and businesses don’t comply fines may be issued.

Failure to wear a mask can result in a $100 fine and failure to display prescribed signage can result in a $200 fine.

The bylaw will cease to be in effect if the city and county combined fall below 100 cases for two consecutive weeks.

City council gave passage to the mandatory mask bylaw in early September, but it did not come into effect until case numbers triggered it this week.

The bylaw will expire Jan. 1.

Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News