The province is turning to humour in its messaging urging Albertans to stay home this holiday season.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, spoke Friday about two new ads urging Albertans not to gather socially over the holidays.
The ads are part of a $2-million ad campaign to remind Albertans how stealthily and fast the virus can spread at social gatherings.
They feature Mr. COVID, a virus-headed visitor who slurps eggnog, shares food at the family dinner table and owns the dance floor at a holiday party.
“Our goal is to get people’s attention, to help them see common situations from a different perspective, and as a result to influence their behaviour,” Hinshaw said at a news conference.
“The campaign uses humour because the situation is serious and we need to use every tool at our disposal to reach all Albertans.”
Hinshaw said it’s important to add an additional tool to communicate more effectively with groups that may not have been taking her messages seriously. Humour may be the answer, she said.
The province has been considering how best to reach out to Albertans, particularly in the 20-39 age group, where it is seeing a large number of our cases, Hinshaw said.
“We know that Albertans in that age group are at the lowest personal risk of potentially having severe outcomes.
“However they also unfortunately can spread the virus to others and can be a part of that onward rising of the curve. So we wanted to find an option that would effectively reach them.”
Hinshaw rejected the idea of a 14-day pre-quarantine period for families desperate to get together at Christmas floated by Premier Jason Kenney during a Facebook Q&A on Wednesday.
“Our case numbers are very high and we are very close to Christmas,” Hinshaw said. “The chances that people could become infected at a family gathering are quite high, and the timeline to be able to plan for that very, very strict quarantine that would be required is very short.”
Alberta reported 1,738 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
The new cases bring the total active cases in the province to 20,161, dropping slightly for the third straight day.
There were 684 people in hospital with the illness on Friday, including 123 in intensive care.
Eighteen new deaths were reported, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Alberta to 684.
Hinshaw also announced Friday that the province is changing the number of support people that patients in hospitals can have — from two to one.
“We know these restrictions will be difficult, especially during the holiday season, but they are needed to stop spread of the virus and to keep patients safe,” she said. “We must do everything possible to bend down the curve, there is no other option.”
Hinshaw’s update was her last for the week before sweeping new restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the province go into effect. The restrictions will be in place for at least four weeks.
She warned Albertans to start changing their behaviour right now and not to wait for the clock to strike midnight on Saturday when the public health orders go into effect.
“This weekend, please do not rush into malls or cram into businesses tomorrow before the restrictions kick in. Don’t host a holiday or Hanukkah party just because you don’t think you’ll get caught. Don’t plan a family gathering just because you’re pretty sure your family doesn’t have COVID.
“Every action we take is like throwing a stone into a lake. It ripples out and we cannot know where those ripples will end. By altering our day-to-day actions immediately, we can reduce the number of new cases that we will see in the days and weeks ahead.”
A provincewide mask mandate went into effect on Tuesday, as did a ban on all private and public social gatherings.
At 12:01 a.m. Sunday, more new restrictions go into effect:
- Restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes. In-person service will not be permitted. Only takeout, curbside pickup and delivery services will be permitted.
- Casinos, bingo halls, gaming entertainment centres, racing entertainment centres, horse tracks, raceways, bowling alleys, pool halls, legions and private clubs.
- Recreational facilities such as fitness centres, recreation centres, pools, spas, gyms, studios, camps, indoor rinks and arenas.
- Libraries, science centres, interpretive centres, museums, galleries, amusement parks and water parks.
- Businesses offering personal and wellness services such as hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlours and massage businesses.