'Don't wait for the government to tell you what to do': Calgarians urged to do more now to stop COVID-19

·6 min read

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is imploring people to take more actions now to contain the spread of COVID-19, warning them not to wait until the province mandates more restrictions.

"Things are unbelievably bad. They are much worse than they've been at any point during this pandemic, and we're going in the wrong direction," Nenshi said at a news conference Friday with Tom Sampson, the chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA).

Nenshi and Sampson urged Calgarians to go further than provincial government restrictions announced Thursday in order to both flatten the curve and save the economy in a city that has soared to more than 3,500 actives cases in a few weeks.

"Don't wait for the government to tell you what to do. Do the right thing now."

  • WATCH | Mayor Naheed Nenshi and CEMA chief Tom Sampson plead with Calgarians to do more to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Friday's news conference, in the Facebook Video below

Their pleas came the day after the Alberta government announced new restrictions on indoor social gatherings.

For two weeks, from Nov. 13 to Nov. 27, the province has suspended indoor group fitness programs, team sports and group performance activities, and reduced operating hours for restaurants, bars and pubs and ending liquor sales at 10 p.m.

The measures apply to Edmonton and Calgary and their surrounding areas, as well as Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray and Red Deer.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also said that they will not be monitored by law enforcement.

"We're not going to be sending out police to monitor this," Kenney said. "As much as what we've done, this is appealing to people to exercise personal and collective responsibility, so that we can avoid having to use more stringent measures."

After the new restrictions were announced on Thursday, the UCP government faced criticism from some quarters that it isn't doing enough.

The measures fell far short of those urged in a letter sent to Kenney on Thursday by a group of more than 430 Alberta physicians and three major health-care unions, who endorsed a "circuit-breaker" targeted lockdown.

They called for strong, mandatory, time-limited measures to avoid an "impending health system crisis." Their recommended measures included:

  • Directives to work from home for those who are able.

  • The limiting of contacts to those within the household or a support bubble.

  • Restrictions on group recreation and sports activities.

  • The suspension of group indoor activities, including indoor dining, bars, casinos, religious services and theatres.

At the press conference on Friday, Nenshi said the city has "essentially zero" power to enforce restrictions when citizens disregard the rules, under the terms of its agreement with the province.

Sampson told the media he was drafting a letter to provincial politicians, asking that Calgary police have the authority needed to enforce the recent changes.

Nenshi said he believes that Calgary should have that power.

"I've got women and men out there with uniforms and ticket books who currently cannot write tickets," Nenshi said. "And I think, that if there are people who are egregiously and flagrantly putting others at risk, they ought to get a ticket."

Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency physician at Rockyview Hospital and co-founder of Masks4Canada, told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday that the government's new restrictions would do little to flatten the curve.

"I'm so tired and I'm so scared. This is not what Alberta needs. We were really hoping that we were able to learn from the mistakes of others … and we just haven't been able to do that," Vipond said.

"This ongoing focus on personal responsibility has been the talking book for most of the Midwest of the United States and the Rust Belt, and they're drowning. And we continue to put in these half-measures. It's going to be bad."

'Collapse your bubble'

Both Nenshi and Sampson urged Calgarians to do more to flatten the curve and save the economy in a city that has soared to more than 3,500 actives cases in a few weeks.

In addition to hand-washing, physical distancing, wearing masks and getting the flu shot, Nenshi warned Calgarians that they must limit their contacts.

"Right now, it's time to collapse your bubble. It's time to be with fewer people. [Premier Jason Kenney] has told us that you should not have anybody in your house that does not live there," Nenshi said.

Sampson echoed this sentiment, and said that social gatherings should be taken outdoors. He encouraged Calgarians to cross-country ski and go for walks instead of hosting their friends and family inside.

"I think we're all exhausted, we're frustrated, but we're not defeated," Sampson said.

"Now is not the time to have people over. We've gotten comfortable, and with the cooling temperatures, being at home indoors is not a safe place if you hang out with a large group.

"Recommit to your personal actions. It will take us all — every corner of this province, every corner of this city — to do our best to drive these numbers down."

Record numbers of cases, day after day

The Alberta government announced the new restrictions because, almost daily of late, the province has set record numbers of new cases, active cases and, perhaps most ominously, hospitalization and intensive care unit occupancy rates.

The province reported 860 new cases Thursday and now has a record 8,305 active cases.

On Thursday, the province reported 225 people were in hospital, with 51 of them in intensive care.

It also reported 10 deaths, the most for a single day in Alberta since the pandemic began. That brings the total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Alberta to 393.

Here is how the active cases break down across the province:

  • Calgary zone: 3,504.

  • Edmonton zone: 3,387.

  • South zone: 518.

  • North zone: 510.

  • Central zone: 347.

  • Unknown: 39.

Economy needs healthy population, officials say

Both Sampson and Nenshi pointed out the economy can recover only if Albertans are healthy.

"You can't have an economy without health, and so ultimately what we need to do is do the right things now in order to save the economy," Nenshi said.

Sampson said that if we don't work together to manage the spread now, it will become difficult for businesses to stay open because more restrictions will become inevitable.

"We didn't come this far to only come this far," Sampson said. "In the spring, the challenge was, how can we reopen? Our new challenge is, how can we stay open? But it's also, how can we stay safe?

"If we don't get this right, we'll certainly see more restrictions. No crystal ball is required."

Find out the ages of people in hospital, how Alberta compares with other provinces, which neighbourhoods or communities have the most cases and more in: