Health Northern Alberta

Grande Prairie moved onto provincial COVID watchlist this week

The Canadian Press

The Alberta government put the City of Grande Prairie on watch for possible enhanced measures after a a COVID-19 outbreak at Walmart.

The watch status means Grande Prairie passed the threshold of having more than 50 cases per 100,000 people, but the province hasn’t imposed any restrictions.

In contrast, the county has five cases at press time, with none in the west county, and has an “open” status as opposed to being on watch. 

“The majority of … cases seem to be linked to a single large outbreak,” Deena Hinshaw, Alberta chief medical officer, said during Tuesday’s COVID update.

“It doesn’t seem at this time like there’s any significant community risk.”

Tom McMillan, Alberta Health communications assistant director, told Town & Country News the outbreak tied to Walmart consists of 10 cases.

Of those, nine are still active and there is one recovery, he said.

“We do occasionally see these large workplace outbreaks that are a reminder that every workplace needs to be taking precautions to prevent spread within their employee group, as well as any kind of spread between employees and the public,” Hinshaw said.

“It’s also a reminder there’s no part of the province that’s spared from COVID-19.”

The City of Grande Prairie as a whole has 41 cases active at press time, with 17 new cases reported since Friday.

With a population of 73,697, 41 cases equate to 55.6 per 100,000 people, according to the Alberta government.

The current case count, 46 in the city and county combined at press time, isn’t sufficient to trigger the city’s new mandatory mask bylaw.

The city’s Temporary Mandatory Face Covering (Mask) Bylaw will come into effect if COVID-19 numbers in the city and county combined reach 100 active cases.

The bylaw would apply to public places and public vehicles, with exceptions such as eating establishments where patrons are seated in designated places.

The county and its neighbouring towns and village haven’t followed the city’s lead in enacting similar bylaws.

In a statement posted on social media, Grande Prairie mayor Bill Given said he hopes the watch status serves as a reminder to take precautions.

“This is not a cause for alarm, but it is a disappointing trend,” Given said.

“We are in control of how the virus impacts our communities and families.”

By Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Town & Country News