Recommended limits to non-essential travel, arena closures, drive-thru Candy Cane Lane among latest City moves to combat COVID-19

The City of Edmonton is strongly recommending that Edmontonians cut down on their non-essential travel, especially travel outside of the region. 

“We will be encouraging Edmontonians to shop at their local grocery and pharmacy, avoid travelling across the city or going to other jurisdictions unnecessarily,” said Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin.

Laughlin made his comments at a meeting of Edmonton City Council on November 27, 2020, held against a backdrop of deteriorating conditions on the COVID-19 front.

Municipal Peace Officer
Municipal peace officers will be allowed to complement enforcement of all public health orders.

Enforcement

Laughlin made a general prediction about enforcement: “I think we are going to be more aggressive in our enforcement measures. We’re at the point where we need to actually make sure we’re doing everything to reduce this.”

Specifically, dedicated teams will work seven days a week—concentrating on public spaces, gatherings and worship centres—to monitor and enforce the City’s Face Covering and Public Health Order. 

Mayor Don Iveson said the province has signalled there now is an understanding that municipal peace officers will be allowed to enforce all public health orders. David Aitken, the chair of the City’s Relaunch Task Team, said “it shouldn’t take us much time to get up and going” with enforcement after appropriate training and direction are addressed.

The new restrictions, including a temporary ban on indoor social gatherings at homes, were announced earlier this week by the province as a state of public health emergency was declared.

Goal Light
The Downtown Community Arena will remain open to support the provincial exemption granted to the IIHF World Juniors.

Recreation facilities

Based on the lack of bookings and provincial restrictions related to sports, 22 City-operated arenas will close from December 1-18. The City will continue to study the provincial order and make adjustments as needed.

The City’s Senior Centres and St. Francis Xavier Sports Centre will be closed and all indoor events and group activities will be cancelled as part of the provincial prohibition on social gatherings.

Starting December 1, customers will be refused entry to City recreation facilities if they do not wear a face covering, regardless of their exemption status. Face coverings can be removed while exercising at a facility in light of provincial guidelines, Laughlin said.

Alberta active cases by zone
Source: Alberta Health

By the numbers

Of the 14,217 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, approximately 47 percent (6,614 active cases) are in the Edmonton zone. 

Two weeks ago, there were 132 COVID hospitalizations in the Edmonton zone, according to numbers shared with City Council. Now there are 191. That’s a 45 percent increase. 

The infection rate over that time period has almost doubled. 

Two weeks ago, there were 30 COVID-10 patients in intensive care in the Edmonton zone. Now there are 47. That’s a 57 per cent increase. 

“Edmonton’s COVID-19 trend data over the past week continued to be alarming and brought into clear focus the incredible speed of virus transmission,” said Laughlin. 

“Case rates, hospitalizations and ICU admissions reached the highest levels so far.”

IndicatorNov 12Nov 25
Total Cases to Date13,99320,711
Active cases3,5726,444
New cases393519
Hospitalizations132191
ICU3047
Infection Rate per 100,000256.6496.4
Total Deaths to Date153221
Outbreak Locations5370
Source: City of Edmonton

Social gatherings 

The recommendations and actions from City Hall are all meant to combat the danger caused by social gatherings. 

“There is more certainty now that private social gatherings are driving much of the problem,” said Laughlin. 

“The lapses in behaviour of Edmontonians—young and old—are causing more pain, suffering and tragedy. We are at a tipping point where  the rate of spread could become exponential and cause devastating harm to health and safety to residents as well as major setbacks to Edmonton’s economic health.” 

Scene from Candy Cane Lane
Scene from Candy Cane Lane

Candy Cane Lane 

Aitken said there is a game plan for keeping Candy Cane Lane visitors off the sidewalks this year. 

“We have been talking with the public health inspectors in regards to not just Candy Cane Lane but some of the other activities and experiences,” Aitken told City Councillors. 

“We do have a game plan to support the notion of drive-thru rather than having people on a narrow sidewalk and potentially gathering to view the beautiful lights. We’ve been working with our City Operations area to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible.” 

What’s next?

Laughlin suggested the upcoming holiday season is in balance.

If we are unable to adequately bend the curve and in the Edmonton zone by December 15, there is a very real possibility that the next wave of restrictions could extend through the holiday season,” Laughlin said. 

“This would be an unfortunate end to a difficult year. It motivates us to do everything we can now to encourage Edmontonians to increase their commitment to following all public health requirements.”

Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin, Edmonton City Hall, November 27, 2020.
Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin, Edmonton City Hall, November 27, 2020.

Editor’s note: it’s important to know that Albertans who live alone are permitted to have two, non-household contacts they can socialize with until the provincial restrictions are reviewed in mid-December, as long as they remain the same two people. This is to help prevent social isolation.