Alberta Health Services has received more than 3,000 COVID-19 related complaints or requests in recent weeks.
The calls have come in between Sept. 16 and Oct. 5, said spokesman Kerry Williamson. They include requests from the public asking for AHS Environmental Public Health (EPH) to check if businesses, facilities, operators or events are complying with current COVID-19 public health measures, including masking, capacity and gathering limits, and compliance with the restrictions exemption program.
“If AHS is made aware of a complaint, public health Inspectors carry out an education or advisory role as an initial step when responding. AHS does not issue tickets or fines,” Williamson said.
“The goal of AHS’ safe healthy environments team is to protect the health and safety of Albertans. AHS public health inspectors always seek to work collaboratively with businesses and organizations to ensure compliance with chief medical officer of health orders and current public health measures.”
He said the health authority is committed to providing further clarity to businesses, staff, clients and the public and only when “significant risk” is identified or there is continued non-compliance will AHS resort to enforcement action.
“Continued non-compliance can result in EPH closure orders, litigation or tickets issued by the police,” Williamson said.
“We would like to remind all Albertans that everyone has a responsibility to take action and do what we can to protect the health of our communities and loved ones. Enforcement is only one factor in our fight against COVID-19.”
A spokesperson for Edmonton police, meanwhile, said the service has not issued any public health act tickets since August, noting police are mainly involved with criminal issues such as when an individual is refusing to wear a mask, that could become a trespassing complaint.
In a recent Facebook Live, Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said enforcement related to COVID-19 is something the service monitors closely, and he currently has a weekly call with other police services, AHS and Alberta Justice on the topic.
“Ideally, obviously, we’re trying to educate the compliance,” McFee said. “But I think as the province has progressed with some of the sanctions and different things that if it comes to the part where we can’t get compliance, then obviously it gets to the enforcement perspective.”
He said, for the most part, city police are seeing compliance with the public health measures.
“Tickets aren’t really deterring much, honestly,” McFee said.
“But the team approach, back to the whole thing when we come in there, and you have a whole litany of potential ways that you can deal with it, whether it’s from a health perspective, enforcement perspective, prosecution’s perspective, it could be a liquor and gaming perspective, that’s where the rubber hits the road, and you start to get some solutions.”
Meanwhile, Premier Jason Kenney said there wouldn’t be a police officer on every street corner to ensure Albertans are following the rules over the Thanksgiving long weekend.
“We ask people to respect these rules,” he said. “Enforcement agencies are there to ensure that there is compliance, but in this complex and free society, we don’t have the capacity or the intention of tracking what every single one of the 4.5 million Albertans does.”