COVID-19 second wave tests depth of public health spirit in Edmonton

The coronavirus attacks people individually. To fight it, individuals must react collectively.

That’s the equation, that’s the challenge and, for some, that’s the honest doubt as the COVID-19 second wave makes itself felt in Edmonton and across the province. 

Here’s what Mayor Don Iveson said at a City Hall news conference:

“I know that Edmontonians are tired of the virus and ready for all of this to end, waiting patiently for a vaccine, but we must accept the reality of the data before us which is that COVID-19 cases are rising, and fast. And we need to remain vigilant by following all of the public health orders.” 

Mayor Don Iveson, City Hall, November 19, 2020.

Here’s what Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin said:

“Basic public health measures are not the firmly entrenched habits we had hoped they would be. We are at a crucial crossroad that requires the support and discipline of the entire community. We urge Edmontonians to redouble their efforts to keep themselves and those around them safe.” 

Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin, City Hall, November 19, 2020

Here’s what Kris Harvey said. 

“I don’t doubt that people’s intentions are good. I’d like to believe that it’s still possible for each of us to do something for the good of the group, but the facts are the numbers are going up.” 

Kris Harvey, supplied.

Harvey was not at the news conference, but is well acquainted with COVID-19. He and his partner have recovered from it. His business, The Chvrch of John, a nightclub-entertainment venue, hasn’t. 

Harvey has fought back by helping to establish the Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community, an advocacy network for local businesses.

And by telling his own story openly. 

“It wasn’t our fault,” Harvey said. “It’s a virus. We were diligent. We did everything by the book. I would even go running with a mask. We would disinfect our groceries. I even wore gloves, which, looking back might have been our downfall.”

And by banging the drum to preserve a sense of the public good. 

“I had to go to the hospital a couple of times, and, sure, I had to wait a few hours, but I had access to health care,” Harvey said. “It’s the preservation of health care access, access to health care when people need it—that’s what we’re facing now in the pandemic.” 

The latest numbers show there are 10,382 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. With 4,388 active cases, the Edmonton zone accounts for 42 percent of the total. The Calgary zone has a similar share. 

The Edmonton zone accounts for 62 percent of intensive care unit admissions in the province.

Still in it together  

At the news conference, Mayor Iveson connected the health of Edmonton’s economy directly to the community’s compliance with public health orders and measures. 

“Ninety-six percent of businesses have adopted new restrictions which signals businesses willingness to keep customers safe and I hope we reward their hard work by supporting them during the holiday season,” Iveson said. 

For Harvey, what’s in the balance is not only his health and his livelihood, but the community he has helped build. He pointed out that for the better part of the past two decades he has lived downtown, “no further west than 115 Street and no further east than 100 Street.”

Said Harvey: “It’s where we live and do business and it’s the community we’re passionate about. It is where we’re in it together.” 

Kris Harvey, supplied