Coronavirus: Social distancing not a challenge as Calgarians head outdoors

It wasn’t a surprise to see friends socializing outdoors on a spring afternoon in Calgary.

What was surprising to see was the method — one friend on the bank of a creek in Confederation Park, the other perched on the tree’s bough on the other side of the creek.

“This just seemed like a good way to meet,” Grace Van Bakel, a student at Central Memorial, said.

“We’re both self-isolating — Kerri because she just got back from Halifax and me because my mom comes into contact with a lot of people at work, so we decided to take that extra step and be safe.”

“And there’s no better way to do that than in the Victorian style of meet across a creek,” Kerri Lawrence, a student returning from University of King’s College, told Global News.

Calgarians were out in numbers for the first sunny weekend since the novel coronavirus arrived in the province.

Parents are getting their kids outdoors, some with strict social distancing.

“I’m being pretty strict, so I’m saying no jungle gym structures, nothing where we’re going to come in contact with others. We just want to make sure we’re doing our part and keeping our family safe,” Zoe Kolbuc told Global News while taking her three daughters for a walk.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has been urging Calgarians to get outside while also embracing social distancing.

Nenshi had more tips for Calgarians when social distancing outside.

The first is stay in your neighborhood, if you can,” Nenshi told Global News. “The sort of big destination places that people would like to go are getting a bit overcrowded, so stay in your neighborhood.

“Number two, practice social distancing — stay two metres away by other people. Even if it means you have to cross the street, do that. If you’re walking your dog, don’t let anybody pet your dog because they pet your dog, you pet your dog, bad things can happen.

“That may sound a bit excessive, but these are the sorts of things we want to put in place so that we can continue to encourage people to get outside.”

More strict rules are in place in European countries, restricting movement in public places only to leaving homes to get necessary supplies like groceries and pharmaceuticals.

Playgrounds a problem

On Saturday, Cochrane, Alta., shut down playground structures in the town. On Sunday, Rocky View County made similar restrictions.

Nenshi said the City of Calgary isn’t currently planning on shutting down playgrounds or parks in the city.

“It’s physically very tough to do that. Most playgrounds don’t have fences around them or gates you can lock.

“We’re really encouraging people to use common sense here.

“We’re not in the position now where we’re looking at broader park closures. But if we’re finding this to be a problem, then that certainly is something on the table.”

Nenshi did advise that parent not let their kids play on playgrounds, in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t use playground equipment right now.

“Take some control of your own health, because the kids who are on the playground equipment, it’s too tough to keep them from touching things and touching their mouth. So I would avoid the playgrounds for now.”

Citizens need to take personal responsibility, the mayor said.

“Ultimately, no matter what we shut down, we can’t shut down every place where you could catch the virus. And what we need to do is make sure that people are being very thoughtful and responsible, and looking after their own health.”

 

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On Saturday, deputy chief medical officer Dr. Marcia Johnson said the province has received reports of people not following advice to stay in, or practise social distancing.

“A plan is in place and will be starting to roll out over the next week that will allow public health inspectors to monitor large groups and restaurants and businesses,” she said.

“There’s also power being provided to the police to deal with, through fines I believe, people that might not be following the recommendations.”

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Several provinces have mandated travel restrictions, saying anyone who has travelled must self-isolate for 14 days.

Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario have already put measures in place to allow police to fine and arrest people who aren’t complying with new rules aimed at controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus in Canada.

The enforcements vary: In Saskatchewan, the province said it will fine those who have travelled but still go out with a $2,000 fine.

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In Manitoba, police can fine up to $50,000 to individuals, and people can face up to six months in jail.

In Quebec City this week, police arrested a woman who was infected with the virus but was walking around outside after being mandated to stay indoors.

In Ontario the provincial police issued a notice Friday warning people that they could face fines of $750 if they defy the “expert advice provided by the chief medical officer of health.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer said that the province is “counting on people” to do the right thing and follow directions from health officials. However, she added that there needs to be rules in place for those who are resisting the change.

“People are asked to do something that’s difficult, and everybody wants to do the best they can. But there are some that don’t always go along with the restrictions.

“It is nice to have a mechanism to nudge the reluctant people towards keeping all our communities safe.”

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 It’s good to get outside, but continue social distancing tactics: Alberta Health Services

Johnson said anyone who is not under restrictions due to symptoms or travel can still go outside, but they should remain at a distance from one another.

On Saturday the province announced 31 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, bringing the total to 226. It’s believed 16 of the cases in Alberta are from community transmission.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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