Due to a typographical error, this story originally said that there were 38 active COVID-19 cases in Morinville on Nov. 4. There were actually 36. The Gazette apologizes for the error.
COVID-19 has surged to new heights in Sturgeon County and Morinville, with active case numbers almost quadrupling in just two weeks.
Alberta Health reported Nov. 3 that Morinville had 35 active cases of COVID-19, rising to 36 on Nov. 4 – a record high for the town, and more than four times the eight cases it had on Oct. 20. Given Morinville's population, that's the equivalent of about 309 cases per 100,000 people – the fourth highest rate of any health region in the province at the time.
Sturgeon County more than tripled its case count in that time, going from 13 cases on Oct. 20 to 45 on Nov. 3.
That’s an all-time high, county Mayor Alanna Hnatiw said Nov. 5, and likely the result of people getting tired of the pandemic and letting down their guard when it comes to safety measures.
“People are frustrated and missing what was apparently a simpler time,” she said, while at the same time concerned about the economic impacts of a second general lockdown.
Sturgeon County is taking every step it can to address the pandemic, Hnatiw said. The county’s mandatory mask bylaw is in effect, and county officials are encouraging everyone to wear masks and practise effective social distancing and hand hygiene.
Morinville’s chief administrative officer Stephane Labonne said in an email the town is very concerned about this rapid rise in cases. As of Oct. 29, all town staff were to work from home and host meetings online where possible. Town council meetings would also move online for several weeks. Anyone who comes into work is required to wear a face covering at all times and clean any high-contact points in their workspace at the start and end of their shifts.
The town and county’s case counts mirror similar increases throughout the Edmonton region. St. Albert saw its active case count roughly double from 65 to 127 between Oct. 20 and Oct. 27, for example, before falling to 101 by Nov. 3. As of Nov. 4, there were 93 active cases in the city. The City of Edmonton likewise saw its active cases climb from 1,318 to 2,077 between Oct. 20 and Nov. 3, rising to 2,143 on Nov. 4.
Hnatiw said current case trends suggest the county may have to look at extending its mask bylaw, which is set to expire at the end of this year.
“Based on the vigorous second wave, I’m not sure the end of 2020 is going to be the end of the coronavirus.”
Hnatiw called on residents to be kind and patient with each other during these times, and to reach out for help through Family and Community Support Services if they need it.
“I just want all people to show the inner strength I know they have.”
The Sturgeon Refinery also reported its first outbreak in the week of Oct. 28. Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said the outbreak involved five people, four of whom had recovered as of Nov. 4.
North West Redwater Partnership external relations manager Vanessa Goodman said the facility brought in and beefed up a long list of safety measures in the last four months, including mask-wearing, split shifts, temperature screenings and having people work from home, and had stayed COVID-19-free up until this point.
“When you have 500 personnel working in one location and case numbers going up in the community, it’s not unexpected that someone may have (caught) COVID in the community and then arrived at work,” she said.
The outbreak has not affected the refinery’s operations, Goodman said. Refinery staff are now beefing up their pandemic safety measures (e.g. by posting more distance markers on floors and reducing meeting room capacity) as advised by Alberta Health.
Visit www.alberta.ca/maps/covid-19-status-map.htm for the latest COVID-19 statistics from Alberta Health.