Alberta’s overcrowded beach raises concern over online outcry COVID-19


A busy weekend on an Alberta beach raised concerns about COVID-19 among residents and politicians, as footage of the scene generated critical comments on social media.Images began to appear on Twitter of crowds in Sylvan Lake on Saturday, a seaside town west of Red Deer.

The posts seem to show groups of people closer than the required separation of two meters on a thin stretch of sand facing the lake, with crowds of overflow in the grassy park surrounding the beach.

“COVID-19 is still there and we must do our part to limit the spread,” Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said in a statement to CBC News on Sunday. “We continue to recommend that all Albertans physically distance themselves whenever possible, including when they are at the beach.”

Public health ordinances require that people maintain a separation of at least two meters at any indoor or outdoor gathering, with certain exceptions. Provincial guidelines provide flexibility for cohort groups, for example, with households allowed to have close interactions with up to 15 people.

Sylvan Lake was in vogue on Twitter Sunday afternoon with some photos shared hundreds of times.

New Democrat MP Janis Irwin commented on an article, saying it was reminiscent of overcrowded American beaches over the past long weekends.

Sylvan Lake, which is home to approximately 15,000 residents, swells with thousands of visitors during the summer months as it is home to one of the most accessible beaches for people living in Red Deer, Calgary and Edmonton. Last week, the city announced that it had deactivated its emergency coordination center, decisions relating to COVID-19 having been returned to regular administrative operations.

At the start of the pandemic, local authorities asked people with summer residences to stay put wherever they spend the winter, noting that a local COVID-19 epidemic could overwhelm the health system. Barriers have been placed at the entrance to public parking lots around the lake to deter potential beach goers.

“We are all still vulnerable”

Local resident Greg Dickson says he felt safe in the community throughout the spring. But as the beach regains its popular weekend getaway status under relaxed public health restrictions, Dickson says he is worried about an epidemic.

“I am really shocked,” he said. “It is as if we have forgotten that we are all still vulnerable. ”

Dickson says he arrived at the beach on Saturday to meet with family members and look for a commemorative bench to honor a recently deceased loved one, unrelated to COVID-19. He briefly considered whether to brave the crowd with a mask, but the 65-year-old man and his wife, who suffers from asthma, felt the risk was too apparent.

The visit to the park left Dickson disillusioned. He was proud of the province’s response to COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, he says, but is increasingly shocked by what he sees as a collective disregard for the physical distance guidelines.

“We need each other,” he said. “My well-being and my health depend on my neighbors and it used to be comforting, now it’s worrying.

Being outside is not a level of protection in itself.– Craig Jenne, infectious disease expert at the University of Calgary

Craig Jenne, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Calgary, says the images are worrisome and indicate what he called “COVID fatigue.” People seem to be losing sight of the public health guidelines that are a condition of the province’s recovery plan, he said.

“If we ignore them, we will have problems, we will have increased infections. Unfortunately, we may have to go back and close some things, whether it’s beaches or even shops and restaurants if we’re not able to keep the numbers low, “said Jenne, associate professor in the department microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases.

While early studies suggest that the risk of transmitting COVID-19 is significantly lower outside compared to inside, Jenne says the risk is always “fairly high” in a large gathering like the one documented in Sylvan Lake Saturday.

“In such a crowd, if a person were infected, we can absolutely expect a cluster to develop, so we have to be careful,” he said.

A small amount of wind can begin to disperse the thousands of respiratory droplets we produce by speaking, coughing and sneezing – the same droplets that commonly spread the virus. Despite this, the risk of transmission still exists, which has prompted public health experts to issue guidelines on physical distances and masks for outdoor environments.

A study of 318 epidemics in China, one was linked to an external transmission, resulting in two cases of COVID-19. Another study Japanese cases have found that the risk of transmission is about 18 times higher in a closed environment compared to the open air. Both studies are in the pre-printing phase, which means that they have not yet been subject to rigorous peer review by the academic review.

“Being outside is not a level of protection in itself,” said Jenne. “If we start packing the sites with people, the fact that they are outside will offer little protection. “


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