Uphill battle: Edmontonians ignoring physical distancing rules on stairs and sidewalks, city says

·3 min read
Some patrons lining up to get into a popular bar on Whyte Avenue in March did not follow physical distancing rules.   (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)
Some patrons lining up to get into a popular bar on Whyte Avenue in March did not follow physical distancing rules. (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)

Popular outdoor amenities like river valley staircases will be on the radar of health and safety teams in Edmonton in the coming weeks as the city gets more reports of people failing to physically distance outside, city officials say.

City manager Andre Corbould said the city has been getting complaints that people aren't following the two-metre physical distancing rule in some areas.

The city will direct health and safety compliance teams to focus on the problem spots, Corbould said at council's emergency advisory committee meeting Thursday.

"We certainly heard in recent days about taking a look at the stair areas in the river valley," Corbould said. "We will do that."

Corbould said the teams will also zero in on shopping and hospitality districts like Whyte Avenue, where people are reporting concerns.

"We'll move them into the right locations to take a look at those areas where Edmontonians and others are telling us that we need to ramp up the compliance," Corbould said.

Coun. Sarah Hamilton mentioned a problem area that has resurfaced from last year.

"I can't believe I"m asking about policing stairs again."

She told the committee that she's been getting complaints from residents about crowds at popular amenities like Wolf Willow.

"Last summer we saw more compliance on the stairs," she said. "And now it seems like the same problem is back, that there's sort of a huge amount of people using the stairs and the lack of social distancing."

Mayor Don Iveson said while being outside poses a lower risk of spread than inside, but coronavirus variants this year can spread more easily.

"Vigilance is the order of the day here, now more than ever because of these much more virulent strains," Iveson said.

"Distancing, masking — these are critical tools in the toolbox for us while people get some exercise outside while respecting others."

Corbould said concerns related to the city's mask bylaw are down, while complaints about a lack of physical distancing have increased.

"Looking ahead, compliance with distancing requirements at off-leash dog parks, basketball courts, tennis courts will be monitored because of this," Corbould said.

The health and safety compliance teams, made up of Alberta Health Services, police, peace officers, fire rescue, and Alberta occupational health and safety officers are growing in size and activity, based on provincial restrictions, he said.

Dr. Chris Sikora, a medical health officer with Alberta Health Services Edmonton zone, also said it's a good time to remind people that physical distancing and masking requirements are still in place.

Sports called off

The city has closed all indoor recreation centres in step with the province's recent restrictions on gyms and fitness facilities.

Organized games and classes at sports fields, baseball diamonds and running tracks are also cancelled for the next three weeks, the city announced.

The Edmonton Valley Zoo remains open with public health restrictions in place, as are the three city-run golf courses at Victoria, Riverside and Rundle.

Outdoor tennis and basketball courts and skate parks remain open.

Public parks and playgrounds remain open with the usual measures in effect.

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