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Last updateThu, 21 Jan 2021 5pm

Drumheller COVID numbers include cases at Drumheller Institution

Drumheller Institution

Regular COVID updates, which were temporarily paused over the holidays, have resumed their normal schedule.
Between December 23, 2020 and January 5, 2021 a total of 11 new cases of COVID-19 were reported locally in Drumheller.
Heather Kipling Communications Director Central Zone for Alberta Health Services (AHS) confirmed on Friday, January 8, “numbers from the Institution are counted in Drumheller’s (case numbers).”
The Mail first reported two inmates at Drumheller Institution tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, December 24. By Monday, December 28 the number increased to seven and continued to climb to 24 cases on Thursday, January 7.
As of Monday, January 11, there are five active cases and 31 recovered cases among inmates; over 1,400 tests have been conducted at Drumheller Institution.
Drumheller Institution is currently the only federal correctional facility in the province with active cases, though there are some cases at provincial facilities which include adult correctional and remand centres. 
Inmates in federal institutions will also be among the first to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Correctional Service Canada (CSC) media relations advisor Kelly Dash told the Mail, “CSC will be vaccinating approximately 600 older offenders prioritized by age and underlying medical conditions. Starting Friday, January 8, CSC began administering the vaccine to these older, medically vulnerable federal inmates as per the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guidance.”
So far, vaccine clinics have been held at four institutes-the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatchewan, the Regional Treatment Centre in Ontario, Drummond Institution in Quebec, and Springhill Institution in Nova Scotia.
While the Drumheller Institution was not included in the first vaccine clinics, Dash says, “Planning for further clinics is underway.”
“We have been working closely with provinces to identify our health care and frontline workers for prioritization and some health care staff have already been vaccinated. This is evolving quickly and we expect more health care staff to receive the vaccine soon,” Dash added.
During the Monday, January 11 COVID update, Premier Jason Kenney provided an update on the ongoing vaccine rollout; as of Sunday, January 10, more than 46,000 Albertans have been immunized.
Premier Kenney also announced paramedics and emergency medical technicians will be among the eligible healthcare workers, including respiratory therapists and healthcare workers in emergency departments and intensive care units, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
As of Monday, January 11, there are 35 active cases in Drumheller, including five active cases at Drumheller Institution.
There are 12 active cases of COVID-19 in Kneehill County, 29 in Wheatland County, and two in Starland County.

Starland assess fish habitat


Starland County is looking at some of its water bodies and how to make them healthier.
Manager of Municipal Services Glen Riep was joined by Dominique Primeau and Craig Copeland of Alberta Environment and Parks at the November 10 Starland County council meeting to discuss the state of the fish habitat in the McLaren and Michichi Dams.
Water quality testing was done in both habitats to determine the viability of trout in the reservoirs. He says there is not a single solution to better the health of the

water bodies to support the fish stocks. He also notes it seems there is lots of food in the water, that maybe prevents fish from biting. There is also fish wintering over in the Michichi, but there are areas that could improve the habitat.
“There are some things we can look into in as far as establishing a better habitat for the fish in there, but also there are some major things that would have to go into that, so it is something we are investigating,” Reip tells the Mail.
They have identified issues such as water quality as well as bird predation not allowing the fish stocks to take hold.
He says Alberta Environment is proposing a couple of ideas that could help, including double stocking the water bodies, or possibly stocking with bigger fish.
‘We have issues with predators affecting the fish populations as well, so we are looking at a larger fish which they can’t prey on, so there are different things we are looking at doing,” he said. ‘That was part of the assessment of the waterbodies, to figure out if it is water quality, if is the habitat itself, if there are any influences from the agriculture that could cause a change in the water quality. So they did a fairly in-depth kind of study. It will help them as well as the county if we want to incorporate some initiatives.
There are some ways to protect water bodies from the influence of agriculture.
“The nitrates that come off agricultural land, you can’t stop all of it. That is one of the things we are looking at is the vegetation and maybe some setbacks with just grass as a buffer zone that acts as a natural filter,” he said.
“We are also looking for funding too,” said Reip. “Budgets are being cut everywhere, so finding money is not as easy as it was 10 years ago, but we certainly want to do what we can.”

Red Deer Mayor urges residents to stand up for local ambulance dispatch


On January 12, the Alberta Health Services is planning to centralize ambulance dispatch, however, some municipalities are hoping the government will intervene.
Last week the City of Red Deer placed an ad in The Drumheller Mail urging residents to write the premier to keep emergency ambulance dispatch local.
Currently, ambulance and fire dispatch in Drumheller is handled through Red Deer. With these changes, fire dispatch would still be handled through Red Deer, but EMS would be dispatched through Calgary.
Mayor of Red Deer, Tara Veer says they have been disputing the changes since they were put on notice in August of last year.
“We are concerned because the consolidating of dispatch means the end of integrated emergency dispatch and will have life and death consequences for the people of our region,” she said.
One of her concerns is the potential lag time if an ambulance cannot respond and an emergency first responder, such as a fire department, needs to be dispatched.
“Our concern right now is we have an integrated emergency response system where many times an ambulance isn’t available because of capacity issues with ambulance. Because we have integrated dispatch, we can often send a medical first responder unit through a fire truck to make sure someone in a life and death situation can at least get some emergency care while waiting for an ambulance to transfer them,” she explains. “With siloing of dispatch and all ambulance calls now being proposed to be routed through the south centre in Calgary, means the local knowledge and geography will be lost, but above all the fire medics won’t necessarily be aware an emergency call has come in because that call will only be routed through the ambulance and therefore not be able to respond in a timely manner.”

She said many communities that have been part of consolidation in the past saw issues in service.
“There are many mayors throughout Alberta who have gone on public record saying there has been a degradation of service. That the super centre call answer times are longer on a 911 call than the local regional centres, and they do not always recognize to bounce the call back to call in fire,” she said. “The Minister of Health has indicated protocols could be put in place for that, but the lived experience of other communities indicate AHS does not recognize to do that and is of deep concern for the health and safety of every Albertan.”
According to the AHS website, there will not be any service changes.
“Nothing will change with respect to the process for dispatching Fire/Rescue or Medical First Response (MFR). The instant Computer Assisted Dispatch (CAD) to CAD interface with the four municipalities currently used to request Fire/Rescue or MFR response will remain in place. The CAD to CAD interface model was implemented in 2011 and has performed with minimal interruption. The interfaces successfully manage tens of thousands requests annually for medical first response,” state the website.
Reeve of Starland County Steve Wannstrom says with anything new he has concerns about the transition and says they don’t know all the fine details. He is more concerned about making sure there are enough ambulances in the area to efficiently respond to emergency calls.
Veer says those concerned can contact the Premier.
“We are strongly urging citizens to write to the Premier. The Minister of Health has indicated he will not be overturning AHS,” she said.
“We have appealed, on behalf of the regions served, to the Premier and asked him to overturn AHS.”
For more information, she directs residents to go to


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