Calgary’s emergency management chief says Alberta needs a circuit breaker lockdown — now


The chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency says the province has hit a turning point in the COVID-19 battle.

From outside of his home on Sunday, Tom Sampson told CBC he feels defeated — the daily virus numbers are filling up hospitals, hurting mental health and the economy. Sampson says the time to act is now and there is no time for half measures.

The CEMA chief called for a 28-day circuit breaker lockdown, adding it should happen now to salvage the holiday season. 

A circuit breaker lockdown is a a short period of more stringent restrictions with a defined end point where non-essential services are shut down in order to reduce spread, allowing the system to catch up to the number of cases.

While it’s not ideal for the economy now, nor is it ideal to pull kids from school, Sampson said waiting could take a worse toll.

“A circuit breaker, in my opinion, is required — a hard one,” Sampson said. “I think people can do anything that you ask them to do if they know there’s a defined period to it, also. And in that sense, I don’t think we should delude ourselves. 14 days is one cycle. You know, you need two cycles to really break COVID in my opinion.”

Sampson said he realizes a complete lock down is controversial, and added it’s the last thing he wanted to have to say.

“You know, we can’t get people to hear us — simply not having people over and keeping your distance, washing your hands, wearing a mask and those sorts of things — it’s just not cool to violate those,” Sampson said. “You put others in danger and we can’t seem to get it right now. Maybe our government mandated shutdown is the way to go.”

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Sampson described the rising infections as an incoming tsunami. 

“I implore you to listen to our learned physicians who are sounding the alarm,” he wrote. 

Alberta reported 1,026 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, the first time it’s reported more than 1,000 cases in a single day. The province has continued to break records for active cases and hospitalizations over the past few weeks.

There are 9,103 people who currently have COVID-19 in the province, 256 of whom are in hospital. As of Friday, more than 3,500 of those cases were in Calgary. 

On Thursday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney introduced some new restrictions for cities in the province including a two-week ban on indoor sports and fitness classes and earlier closing times for restaurants and bars. 

The premier has continued to urge citizens exercise “personal responsibility” ahead of mandatory constraints. The new restrictions will not be monitored by law enforcement, Kenney said. 

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said the city has “essentially zero” power to enforce restrictions when citizens disregard the rules, and has asked the province to reinstate public health enforcement powers and boost contact tracing. 

Sampson said the province’s latest round of measures don’t go far enough, but the City of Calgary can’t fight the pandemic with its State of Local Emergency alone.

“States of local emergency are very, very powerful,” Sampson said. “You can do almost anything you want. You can even conscript people. But they don’t deal with saying: I’m going to shut down this business or that that piece of our of our infrastructure for a period of time, it doesn’t deal with it. And so that’s a provincial call.”



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