Banff seeks clarity around additional restrictions after town identified as COVID-19 hot spot

The Town of Banff says a special council meeting will be called on Monday, where administration will brief council on the latest COVID-19 restrictions that were enacted by the province on Thursday.

The new measures apply to regions with a case rate of 350 per 100,000 residents and a minimum of 250 active cases.

Banff currently has only 150 active cases, but it does meet the threshold needed for a curfew, if the community makes a request to the province.

“On the curfew piece we’re still trying to understand if that applies to us,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen. 

“Banff is considered a hotspot based on cases per 100,000. We are very appreciative to have this new vaccination program coming our way, however we were not identified in the list yesterday as a hotspot, so we’re still trying to understand it.”

Banff currently has 1115.1 cases per 100,000 and Sorensen says council will not rule out the curfew option but says it’s something that will be deliberated on Monday, once town staff have ironed out the details in the new restrictions. 

Tom McMillan, spokesperson for Alberta Health, says after deliberation it was decided to set the ceiling at 250 active cases for communities where the new restrictions will take effect.

"Implementing some form of a ceiling was important to avoid punishing smaller communities where there is low spread but a small number of cases can lead to a disproportionally high case rate," said McMillan.

"Health officials will continue to work with all regions, including Banff to reduce the spread alongside these measures. When 34,700 doses of Janssen vaccine arrive next week, they will be prioritized for Banff and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo."

Officials will also work with communities that meet the threshold of 1000 cases per 100,000 and request a curfew.

Sorensen says that her community is ahead of the curve when it comes to the other targeted measures enacted around school and sports. 

“All of our municipal sports activities have already been moved outside so that doesn’t’ apply to us,” she said. 

“Our school board is working with their own program, as I understand, in terms of revolving students in and out, so they seem to be managing the school piece of it.” 

Banff was also designated as a community earlier this week, including Wood Buffalo where the province will send the first 30,000 doses of the Janssen Johnson & Johnson vaccine.