Numbers on the geospatial map on alberta.ca under the local geographic area setting on Jan. 12, 2021.

Numbers on the geospatial map on alberta.ca under the local geographic area setting on Jan. 12, 2021.

Ponoka County says ‘We need to start owning the message a little more’

Active cases starting to fall in Ponoka County, Maskwacis sees 25 per cent drop

Ponoka County council again discussed COVID-19 numbers and how they’re presented and being reported, during their regular meeting on Jan. 12, 2021.

Reeve Paul McLauchlin says the provincial government continuing to push back the dates on restrictions and closures just gives people false hope, as he says people don’t seem to realize that those dates are goals and can’t be counted on for making any kind of plans, business or personal.

“We just have to do the best we can to support our local businesses,” he said.

McLauchlin says the county had stepped back from communicating about COVID-19 and that he isn’t interested in doing that anymore.

“We need to start owning the message a little more,” he said.

Council discussed possibly sharing the numbers on their own website, but even the local geographic area setting on the alberta.ca geospatial map only breaks it down so much and more specific data is not available.

On that local geographic setting, numbers are still being pulled from other communities, such as Bentley and Maskwacis, which aren’t in Ponoka County.

Recently, major news outlets have reported that Ponoka County’s COVID-19 numbers are right behind Calgary, which is entirely false, says Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Charlie Cutforth.

“We are providing our residents with false information which is alarming them, naturally,” said Cutforth.

Cutforth added that the way numbers are being presented is also hurting local businesses, as people are going into Lacombe to buy their groceries instead of in town.

Council praised the Four Nations of Maskwacis response to COVID-19, including how the chiefs hold live video updates frequently and share daily number updates. They’ve barricaded roads and “haven’t hidden from it.”

Council was to meet with the province later the same day and planned to again bring up their concerns about how the numbers are being reported.

“The freedom to come out of this is going to be provisional on numbers and that’s not going to happen is the numbers aren’t accurate,” said McLauchlin.

As of Jan. 12, the geospatial map on alberta.ca showed 40 active cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) and 13 active in Rimbey (West Ponoka County and partial Lacombe County).

The data was last updated at the end of the day on Jan. 10.

Those numbers are down from Jan. 5, when there was 53 active cases in Ponoka County east, but 12 in the west.

READ MORE: Ponoka, surrounding communities COVID-19 update

On Jan. 11, Maskwacis Health Services reported 398 active cases, which is down from 532 active on Jan. 4 — a drop of 134, or about 25 per cent.

There have now been a total of 1,573 active cases in the Four Nations, including 1,175 recovered and six deaths.

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