'The situation is out of control': Call for help from Wood Buffalo region as COVID-19 case numbers rise
EDMONTON -- For the second day in a row, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and 11 First Nations in the area are calling for help as COVID-19 numbers in the region climb.
“We really need to get a big change in this region because it’s really out of hand,” said Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott.
Tuesday, the active case rate for Fort McMurray grew to more than 1,500 cases per 100,000 people, up from 1,300 cases on Monday.
“It’s exponentially rising to the point where I’m really calling upon other levels of government to take action, there’s a lot that can be done,” said Scott.
The mayor is calling for younger people in the region to be made eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. The average age in Fort McMurray is 32.7.
“Plus, the vaccine clinic is open here with limited hours, there should be an opportunity… we have so many shift workers in this region, let’s change the hours to when people are actually available,” said Scott.
Hospitals in the region are so full, that some patients will have to receive treatment in Edmonton.
“We want to be able to look after the patients in our region, so I think getting this under control is really going to be the key to making sure that everybody’s safe in this region,” said Scott.
Some are worried the influx of COVID-19 patients leaves no room for other emergency patients.
“What happens to a person who gets in a car accident… they can’t do anything for them,” said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Tribal Council.
COVID-19 cases in the oil sands are also climbing. There were over 2,000 active COVID-19 cases at oil sands worksites as of Monday.
According to Alberta Health, CNRL, Suncor and Syncrude all have outbreaks of more than 400 COVID-19 cases. According to Adam, Syncrude sent around 500 workers home on Monday.
The 11 First Nations in the municipality sent a letter to the province with recommendations.
“We’re going to continue to climb as we move forward because there are no restrictions in place,” said Adam. “The situation is out of control.
“I’m hearing rumours that some of the (hospital) staff are walking away from work, and these are higher up staff members from the regional hospital.”
Among the recommendations are a stay-at-home order for people in the area, isolation rooms in local hotels for people quarantining and rapid sites at community entry points.
Adam also wants to see Northlands School Division classes moved online, like schools in Fort McMurray.
“We know that… the fewer people who come into contact with other people outside their household, the less case transmission we’re going to have,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.
“There are two things we're doing right now,” she added. “Ensuring that vaccine is made available to all those who are eligible and, of course, then looking at those other options, whether it’s Fort McMurray or other areas of the province, is there anything more that's needed.
“But again that is a decision that hasn't been made yet.”
According to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, there are AstraZeneca vaccines available for people in Fort McMurray who are 40 and older.
She added that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses currently in Fort McMurray are already spoken for.