In it for the long haul: First month of COVID-19

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

April 6 was the one month anniversary of the first COVID-19 case in Alberta. By April 9, there were 1,451 cases in the province, of which 97 were in the North Zone.

Slave Lake area has been very lucky (with only four cases, all of them recovered), but High Prairie and McLennan area have been hard hit.

As of April 8, a seniors’ housing facility in McLennan had 19 cases, of whom two had died.

High Prairie also has an outbreak in a seniors’ facility, with six patients (see below).

There are no outbreaks of this kind is Slave Lake area (see Page 8).

On April 7, Premier Jason Kenney revealed the health projections for Alberta and informed Albertans that the present restrictions would likely be in place until the end of May.

Throughout this time, the town and the M.D. have useful information on their websites and were monitoring the situation. Town of Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman makes regular video updates.

From the beginning, the basic message has stayed the same – wash your hands, keep six feet apart, self-isolate if you are required to do so, and stay home as much as possible.

On April 9, the government of Alberta announced $2 billion to be used to fill potholes and get Albertans’ back to work. The money is for more road work than just potholes, but in Slave Lake and the M.D. of Lesser Slave River, potholes are on everyone’s minds, at least before COVID-19 started.

Life in Alberta and Slave Lake has changed quite a bit, since Friday, March 6.

The change was slow at first then gained momentum. On Sunday, March 8, the cancellation of the Arctic Winter Games was the first COVID-19 cancellation. Various Slave Lake athletes and some adults had been scheduled to compete and work at the games.

By the end of that week, nearly all events were cancelled. This included the Town of Slave Lake closing the pool.

On Sunday, March 15, the government of Alberta closed all of the schools and daycares.

Starting Monday, the town closed the MRC and library. This was also the day when the first two COVID-19 cases were announced in the North Zone.

The North Zone covers the top half of Alberta.

It includes such communities as Cold Lake, Slave Lake, High Prairie, Wabasca, Westlock, Grande Prairie, Jasper, Fort McMurray, and all the communities up to Alberta’s northern border with the territories.

The first cases in this zone were confirmed on March 16. The first case was reported to the government on March 12. This is a perfect example of the time delay between cases, testing, and test results.

Early on in testing, it took up to four days for results to come back.

There was a point at the end of March when supply of a chemical for testing was low, which influenced the announcement of cases, but not the actual cases.

On March 17, the provincial government closed all gyms, community centres, and other group meeting places (see next weeks Leader for how local fitness businesses and groups are going digital).

At 11 a.m. on March 20, Town of Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman announced that there were two cases in Slave Lake. By the end of that day, the number was three.

This is where the numbers stayed until March 27, when they mysteriously (or not so mysteriously as it turns out) decreased to two.

A decrease in the number of cases in a region, says an Alberta government spokesperson, likely means that the person’s address was entered wrong or they no longer live in the area. It does not mean that someone has recovered, as the interactive map on covid19stats.alberta.ca keeps a running tally of cases of COVID-19.

On April 3, the number went back up to three and on April 4 to four.

On April 6, the government released active, recovered, and death by county numbers. In this data, towns and villages are included in the counties, but cities have their own category.

For example, the M.D. of Lesser Slave River cases could be in Slave Lake or the M.D.

The new data revealed that all four cases in Slave Lake had recovered.

Our neighbours to the west were not as lucky. Grouard, northeast of High Prairie, had one death, and McLennan, west of High Prairie had two. All of these, and the death in Jasper were in the week starting April 6.

While the Slave Lake numbers are very promising, they don’t change the health protocols.

As mayor Warman, said in his April 7 COVID-19 update, having four recovered cases in Slave Lake doesn’t mean the health measures will be lifted. Everyone should keep social distancing, etc. The virus is in the province, could still be in Slave Lake, and could easily come back.

As stated earlier, the restrictions will likely continue to the end of May (For detailed numbers see Page 12).

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