The province announced an increase of 364 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
The Edmonton region was the source of 276 of the new cases, prompting Alberta’s chief medical officer of health to introduce voluntary steps aimed at curbing the spread of the virus in the capital.
“These measures are not being taken lightly, but are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from continuing to escalate,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said Thursday that while there is a concern with the numbers in Edmonton, so far, Red Deerians have done good work to mitigate transmission of COVID-19.
“Red Deer has been very fortunate to have relatively low case numbers in the city and also in the central health zone, relative to the rest of the province and the country,” Veer said, adding she’s been in contact with other mayors across the zone about their management of COVID-19.
“I think that’s a credit to Red Deerians and their voluntary compliance with public health protocol and how stringent our citizens are taking public health measures.
“Any time there is a rise in cases in other communities — because as Albertans, we live, work and recreate throughout the province — a rise in cases in any city is a concern because of the possibility of community transmission.”
There are now 2,097 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta.
“I especially caution Albertans against planning large get-togethers this weekend,” said Hinshaw. “Now is not the time to be gathering in large groups, travelling long distances for the holiday or sharing food or utensils outside your cohort.
“Keep your Thanksgiving small, keep it safe and protect one another.”
The new voluntary measures in the Edmonton zone encourage limiting family and private gatherings to no more than 15 people. Hinshaw also recommended masks be worn in all indoor work settings and asked citizens to limit their number of cohorts to no more than three.
“While these voluntary measures are focused on the Edmonton zone, everyone in the province should take note. We must all take precautions to limit the virus’ spread to our friends, family and loved ones.”
Red Deer — which currently has seven active cases of the virus — hasn’t experienced the same rise in case numbers as Edmonton.
Hinshaw noted 36 per cent of the cases in Edmonton were exposed by a close contact. Twenty-six per cent are linked to an outbreak.
“Household or community contacts continue to be a key driver in spreading the virus throughout the city. Social gatherings and family gatherings continue to be a factor in virus spreading events,” she said, adding several Edmonton workplaces have also seen outbreaks.
Although there have been no announced restrictions to businesses yet in Edmonton or the province as a whole, Rick More, CEO of the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce, said if the province took steps to close the economy because of rising COVID-19 numbers, it would be devastating to local shops and services.
“A reversal to look at closures would be devastating to a slow, creeping economy,” he said in an email.
“If numbers rise in this area, we just have to be even more prudent in our levels of hygiene. Surely, we have learned by now the consequences.”
The central zone currently sits at 39 active cases of the virus, while the Calgary zone has 604. Edmonton has spiked to 1,251 active cases of COVID-19.
Ponoka County has jumped to 12 active cases and Mountain View County has five active cases. Olds, Wetaskiwin and Sylvan Lake each have one active case of the virus.
Lacombe sits at three active cases, while Red Deer County and Lacombe County each have two active cases.