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Last updateFri, 16 Apr 2021 7pm

MLA Horner pushes for region-based COVID restrictions

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Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner would like to see a different approach to handling COVID-19 restrictions, especially in rural areas.
Last week in his member statement in the legislature, Horner took the time to address his constituency regarding COVID-19 restrictions. While he acknowledges there have been localized breakouts, he feels rural and remote areas could be treated differently.
“The vast area of the province encompassing Special Areas 3 and 4, the County of Paint Earth and the MDs of Provost, and Acadia has a grand total of zero cases,” he said. “Even though there have been no cases or next to it for over a year now, this huge area falls under the same restrictions as everywhere else in the province. Between November 24, and December 7 (2020) cases dropped in my riding from 86 to 62 while most areas of the province witnessed a rising trend. Yet we were pulled into province-wide restrictions.”
He tells the Mail a regional approach to restrictions has been a discussion point among MLAs.
“Lots of us have been advocating for that and looking at other jurisdictions that have implemented regions,” he said.
Horner explains last November when the province was under the Open and Enhanced restrictions, cases were displayed by the municipality, and restrictions were based on cases. He felt that system worked well.
“People could look at the map, and they knew if there were cases locally and it gave people something to shoot for and gave people ownership of the system, they didn’t want to bring anything into the community or travel that would impact their community negatively,” he explains. “Now that we are under a blanket restriction, vast areas of the province, not just in this riding, have had almost no cases, but under the restrictions, we still have everything from bowling alleys to theatres and different businesses which are still closed. It seems punitive and too inflexible.”
While his position on the restrictions could be interpreted as contrary to current government policy, he felt it was important to speak on behalf of his constituency.
“I have spoken this way behind closed doors the entire time, and I have been consistent in what I am asking for, but I felt it was something constituents of Drumheller-Stettler needed to hear,” he said.
“You have to speak for your constituency, and I didn’t speak against the government per se, I just spoke about what happened, the gaps that have been created and the punitive nature of a one size fits all approach.”
“It’s time to stop punishing areas that have done quite well and implement a reasonable regional approach immediately,” said Horner.


New draft curriculum announced for K-6 students

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A new draft curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 6 was unveiled on Monday, March 29 by Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange which aims to give students a strong foundation for future education.
The curriculum, which has been in development for the last 19 months in consultation with education experts and First Nations, Inuit, and Metis leaders, will focus on teaching students essential knowledge and skills in literacy, numeracy, citizenship, and practical skills.
“The new curriculum delivers on our commitment to Albertans to refocus learning on essential knowledge and skills in order to give our children the best possible chance at success,” Minister LaGrange said during the press conference. “Parents and teachers have waited a long time for this, and I am pleased to say we’ve delivered. Another promise made, promise kept.”
Since 2006, Alberta’s Grade 4 students have declined in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, which measures student learning in reading, dropping from first of 45 countries in 2006 to 17 of 50 countries by 2016.
Likewise, these downward trends are also seen in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science. Grade 4 students were ranked 16 of 65 countries in math and fourth of 65 countries in science in 2007, dropping to 39 of 64 countries in mathematics, and 16 of 64 countries in science by 2019.
Students will focus on the basics of the key learning themes while also being introduced to more difficult topics, such as residential schools and the treatment of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples.
“Our children need to know our past to understand our present, and the new curriculum will teach them that,” Minister LaGrange said during the press conference.
The new curriculum will also tackle financial literacy and the difficult subjects of consent and setting personal boundaries.
Some schools will voluntarily begin piloting the new curriculum in September 2021, and Minister LaGrange stated she hopes it “will become the final curriculum” for the 2022-2023 school year; the draft curriculum for Grades 7 to 10 students is anticipated to be ready by September 2022, while the draft curriculum for Grades 11 and 12 is targeted for September 2023.
Minister LaGrange encourages parents, teachers, and anyone interested in the future of education within Alberta to provide feedback on the draft curriculum. Feedback will be open until Spring 2022 and will help refine the final draft before implementation in the 2022-2023 school year.
The draft curriculum and the accompanying survey can be found at https://www.alberta.ca/curriculum-have-your-say.aspx.

Province begins Phase 2B of vaccine rollout, local cases holding steady

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More than 608,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered and nearly 100,000 eligible Albertans have been fully immunized with both doses of the vaccine.

Beginning Tuesday, March 30 the province expanded eligibility to Albertans in Phase 2B of the vaccine rollout; this includes cancer patients, transplant recipients, and numerous conditions which put Albertans at an increased risk of severe outcomes from contracting COVID-19.

“With nearly one million Albertans in Phase 2B, this is the largest single group we have made eligible for vaccinations. With limited supply we will have to move slowly and take small steps until more doses arrive,” Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during the Monday, March 29 COVID update.

Dr. Hinshaw also announced the Astra-Zenica vaccine has been temporarily paused for people under 55 years of age due to “rare instances of blood clots” which have been reported.

Locally, the number of active COVID-19 cases continues on a downward trend from a height of 75 active cases on Tuesday, March 16.

As of Monday, March 29 there are 50 active cases and 333 recovered cases for the Town of Drumheller, including 16 active and 161 recovered cases at the Drumheller Institution. There is one active case of COVID-19 in Wheatland County, seven in Starland County, and 12 in Kneehill County.


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