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Panel fields COVID-19 questions at virtual town hall

IMAGE. Supplied by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

Community leaders and healthcare officials answered questions from residents about COVID-19 at a virtual town hall.

Mayor Don Scott, interim CAO Jamie Doyle, and Regional Director of Emergency Management Scott Davis hosted the hour-long phone-in conference.

Joining them were Karim Zariffa, Executive Director of the Oilsands Community Alliance, and AHS North Zone representatives Murray Crawford and Dr Kristin Klein.

Hours earlier, the Alberta government reported the second case of COVID-19 in Fort McMurray’s urban service area.

Mayor Don Scott reminded residents to remain calm and maintain taking preventative measures.

“Where you see you should be do something related to COVID-19, read that as you must do that such as washing your hands and social distancing. We must stop the spread of this virus. We are all going through this together, and we will get through this as a community.”

He added residents should call or video chat with family, friends, and vulnerable persons to help maintain mental wellness.

Residents had several questions about emergency preparedness.

When it comes to protective equipment, Murray Crawford said the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre has adequate stock.

“We are constantly monitoring to make sure people don’t misuse or use them in situations that are not required.”

Crawford said Regional Emergency Services also has enough supplies.

A few residents asked about the second case of COVID-19 in Fort McMurray.

Dr Kristin Klein said residents will see a shift in how the province reports cases.

“We are seeing more community transmission in our cases, particularly because there is a lot less travel right now.

Klein said Alberta’s focus will turn toward healthcare workers and those most vulnerable.

She added residents may take an online screening test on the AHS website.

“You can put in some information about your symptoms, where you have been, [and] it will give you some recommendations at the end for actions and activities you can do.”

AHS guidelines are also in place at the region’s work camps.

Union representatives and municipal officials praised Civeo in its response to a presumptive case at Borealis Lodge last week.

Mayor Scott commended OSCA and its members for continuing to follow proper procedures.

“Karim Zariffa with OSCA assured me they were taking exceptional measures, and I believe our partners are going to do their best during this time to keep us safe.”

One of Mayor Scott’s provisions in his 17-part motion introduced on March 24 includes requiring the region’s work camps to only house essential service workers.

The RMWB said they plan to hold virtual town halls in future to keep residents abreast of further developments.

Mayor Don Scott offered them some words of encouragement.

“What I would ask everyone to do is take care of each other. We have the technology to stay connected. Reach out to your neighbours and especially anyone who is alone or in distress. I’m very concerned about the young people in our region; this is something that is affecting everybody, including them.”

More information on Alberta’s response to COVID-19 is available on the province’s website.