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Multitude of questions at second virtual town hall

Last Updated Apr 2, 2020 at 11:05 pm MDT

IMAGE. Supplied by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

The second RMWB virtual town hall meeting aired on April 2, 2020.

Residents asked several questions during the hour-long meeting.

Scott Davis, Regional Director of Emergency Management, confirmed three cases of COVID-19 within Fort McMurray.

As of April 2, within the North Zone, there are 55 cases, including three deaths.

Some residents asked about health and safety in our region’s essential services like the Fort McMurray International Airport.

President and CEO of the Fort McMurray Airport Authority, RJ Steenstra, said they follow guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

This relates to travel restrictions, advisories, and prevention measures.

“We also really paid attention to amplifying this guidance through the terminal, so we can ensure everyone and travelling through YMM has trusted information.”

Steenstra said the airport must remain open for important medical and domestic travel.

“We are part of Canada’s critical infrastructure, and we need to continue to work with other airports to do this safely. At the end of the day, there’s nothing more important to us than the health, safety, and wellbeing of our customers, terminal personnel, and all of our employees at YMM.”

Airline operators may deny boarding to passengers showing or displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

Residents asked if the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre houses any confirmed cases.

Senior Operating Officer, Murray Crawford provided an update on the hospital’s COVID-19 preparedness.

“Right now, we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our hospital.”

He added that hospital staff have access to a national stockpile of supplies.

“We are prepared and we’ve been planning for quite some time for many different scenarios, and we think we’re ready to continue to battle this pandemic.”

Maintaining the mental health of Wood Buffalo residents is also important.

Residents asked about the availability of those supports, in particular for Indigenous communities.

Michael Oostendorp, Director of Community Infrastructure and First Nations Relations for Treaty 7, said help is still available.

He said there are ongoing discussions between the RMWB and Indigenous leaders in the region to maintain assistance programs.

Oostendorp added the federal government also set aside funds for mental health supports in its response to COVID-19.

“Funding has been made available in the amount of $305-million nationally that is to be available to First Nations and [also for proposal driven for] Métis communities, and Friendship communities for individuals who may be living off-reserve.”

Oostendorp added groups may use the funds, as an example, for mental health and emergency response services.

Alberta identified oilsands industries as an essential service, but workers finishing their shifts often miss out as grocery stores in town close early.

Delivery services including restaurants reached these workers providing pre-packaged meals and grocery orders.

Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation CEO Kevin Weidlich said they would discuss with industries ways to meet this demand.

Physical distancing is one-way residents can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve.

CAO Jamie Doyle said to help with enforcement of this and other safety measures, residents may call the Pulse Line at (780) 743-7000.

“Bylaw and Peace officers are always patrolling our entire region. If you do see something that’s happening frequently, and we’re missing it please call into the Pulse Line, and we’ll be sure to monitor the area a bit more than normal.”

Mayor Don Scott thanked residents for their questions to the panel.

He added anyone with additional questions could address them to a special email set up by the Municipality.

“We, as a community, have been through challenges, and I acknowledge we’ve never been anything quite like this, but we came together before and we’re going to do it again.”

The next RMWB Council meeting is April 14, 2020.