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Alberta expands its self-isolation hotel program

COVID-19 cases soared at meat packing plant outbreaks earlier this year

December 18, 2020   by Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette

People who need to self-isolate because of COVID-19 but can’t do it safely in their own homes are eligible to stay in a provincially funded hotel, with three meals a day, in an attempt for the government to help slow down the spread of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced an expansion of the provincial self-isolation hotel program with16 hotels ready to be filled – six in Calgary, nine in Edmonton and one in Peace Ricer. The hotel system will have a maximum capacity in Calgary of 791 spots; Edmonton’s will have over 1,300.

Help support neighbourhoods

The expansion is part of a broader program, Covid Care, launched by the government to help support neighbourhoods most impacted by COVID-19. The government is working to secure more hotel space in the two major cities, along with Fort McMurray and Red Deer.

“If there is sufficient demand, we will expand the program even further,” Kenney said Tuesday.

The program will provide culturally appropriate meals to residents, including dietary and religious restrictions. The cost for the hotel room averages to $160 per person per day. Temporary emergency payment of $625 dollars once they have completed their stay at the self-isolation hotels.

Evacuate from natural emergencies

“This is the same payment that we make available for Albertans who evacuate from natural emergencies like fires and floods,” Kenney said.

The premier said people who are doing the right thing by self-isolating, potentially incurring costs and losing income as a result should be compensated. The program will also be “a massive expansion” of free self-isolation housing support, Kenney said. During the meat packing plant outbreaks earlier this year, it was discovered that the spread was often caused by many people living together and not having the ability to self-isolate. As a response, the government started to offer 14 days at hotels for certain people who were not able to self isolate, and the announcement today is an expansion on that program.

The program has been running since the outbreaks at the meat packing plants happened, but few people have taken the government up on its offer and Kenney said he doesn’t believe Albertans are aware of the program.

Not have the ability to isolate

The program is aimed at helping slow the spread in neighbourhoods in the two major cities where residents may not have the ability to isolate alone in their homes.

On top of providing free hotel stays, the government is establishing COVID care teams along with municipal and community partners to provide on-the-ground outreach to give “very practical support.”

The teams will go into neighbourhoods safely and ensure residents have the understanding, tools and support they need to break the chain of transmission in the area.

“This is is about having empathy and compassion for the barriers many of these folks face and providing what they need to slow the spread in our two largest cities,” Kenney said.

Care packages of masks and hand sanitizer

The teams will provide materials and clarification on public health orders in a language best understood by residents, bringing care packages of masks and hand sanitizer and providing clarity on social supports available to residents.

The government is also working on providing awareness of local testing centres and providing transportation to those centres. Communities will also get information on the safety of vaccines.

The government will also be launching a public awareness campaign in 10 different languages in many different culturally appropriate mediums.

Kenney said the COVID care team approach follows the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO), which said one of the most effective strategies to control the virus is through “strong, local, on-the-ground collaboration in communities that might be the most vulnerable.”

In Edmonton, the communities of Abbotsfield, Castle Downs, Eastwood, Jasper Place, Millwoods West, North East, Northgate, Woodcroft East and Woodcroft West are at a higher risk for COVID-19.

“Albertans in these particular communities are at higher risk of COVID-19 due to absolutely no fault of the residents there. The residents of these communities often have public facing jobs which may make them more susceptible to community transmission,” Kenney said.

Kenney said all Albertans appreciate all of these people who are working in front facing jobs.

“We all depend on those working hard in these and other public facing roles who often take greater health risks in order to do so, in order to serve our broader society and also to take care of their families,” he said.

“We must be there to support them.”

The hardest hit neighbourhoods have more people who are lower income and living in multi-generational family homes, which makes it harder to self-isolate if needed. With elderly relatives at home it may make seniors more vulnerable to infection, Kenney said.

Families in these neighbourhoods are more likely to have English language barriers which may make it more difficult to get current and accurate health information and social supports available to them.

 

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