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The Weekly Anchor

Tips for Emergency Prepareedness in Yellowhead County

by Shaylyn Thornton
 
May 10, 2021 issue: While Emergency Preparedness Week is now behind us (as it ran from May 2-8), it is still vitally important for residents and visitors to be prepared.
There are a number of ways to stay vigilant in the hopes of preventing an emergency, and also to be prepared in the event an emergency occurs.
Wildfires are something that Alberta tends to see a lot of each year, and as Caroline Charbonneau from the Edson Forest Area explained, 88 percent of Alberta wildfires last year were caused by humans – meaning they were completely preventable. Information on how you can help prevent wildfires can be found in the May 10, 2021 of The Weekly Anchor.
In the event that a wildfire does occur, residents have the opportunity and responsibility to take action to lessen the effects of a wildfire. FireSmart Canada and Yellowhead County suggest 5 steps to help protect your home from wildfires:
- Creating a non-combustible perimeter can protect your home.
- Removing deadfall and pine needles also reduces available fuel.
- Move firewood 10-30 metres away from your home.
- Place propane tanks 10 metres away from your house.
- Keep grass cut to less than 10 centimetres.
Farmers in the area are also encouraged to be prepared to protect their farm animals and livestock. Yellowhead County suggests making an emergency plan and preparing a farm emergency kit in the event of an emergency.
Specific suggestions include keeping water troughs filled, keeping access ways free of debris, and creating a map of your property for First Responders including buildings, animal locations, power sources, etc. A detailed checklist of suggestions can be found on the Yellowhead County website.
Yellowhead County also offers an Emergency Preparedness checklist for a 72-Hour Kit on their website for residents and homeowners. The County notes, “It’s always good to be prepared to leave your home on short notice. During an emergency or major disaster is not the time to gather up what you need. Take stock of items and vehicles that you need to take with you if you need to evacuate.”
It is suggested that you prepare kits for home, work, and your vehicle, as you never know when an emergency could occur, and “Taking a few steps will help prepare you and your family for a range of emergencies you could face any day of the year.”
You can receive alerts by downloading the Alberta Emergency Alert app, and you can find more details and checklists on ways to stay prepared at yhcounty.ca/living-here/emergency-preparedness. As well, information on staying vigilant and prepared against wildfires can be found at firesmartcanada.ca.

Province plans dumping hazardous waste
disposal costs onto municipalities

“This is just another example of back door downloading of costs to municipal taxpayers.” Mayor Zahara

by Adrienne Tait
 
On April 16th the Town of Edson was made aware, by the Alberta Recycling Management Authority, of coming changes to the Provincial Household Hazardous Waste Program. 
As of the end of May the provincial government will no longer be subsidizing the cost of material disposal at the Swan Hills Treatment Centre.  That funding was provided through Alberta Infrastructure.  Bruce Thompson, Environmental and Fleet Services Manager, told Council at the Committee of the Whole meeting, “The change that they are looking to make, apparently, disposal could be impacted in 2021 by not allowing us access - not allowing municipal household hazardous waste - to enter Swan Hills after the month of May.”
Currently municipal household hazardous waste materials for Edson and Yellowhead County transfer stations are collected through the Edson and District Recycling Society.  The materials affected by the household hazardous waste program include items such as paint, oil filters, used oil, cleaning products, fertilizer etcetera.  Household hazardous waste materials are collected and organized by EDRS (step 1).  They are then picked up by BDS Environmental and hauled to a sorting centre where they are sorted, combined with waste from other municipalities, and lab packed before being taken to the Swan Hills treatment centre (step 2).  The third and final step in the process is the disposal and destruction of the materials at the Swan Hills Treatment Centre.
Thompson told council that he has spoken with several other agencies including the Alberta Recycling Management Authority and they are exploring other options for disposal, “The magnitude of this change is not known right now because we don’t know what the options for disposal will be or what those rates will be.”
Additionally, municipalities have been advised that there may be funding changes to the first two steps in the process- the material collection and sorting, lab packing and delivery to the disposal centre -in 2022.  This portion of the household hazardous waste management program has been funded through Alberta Environment and Parks. 
While it is believed there will continue to be some subsidy it is unknown how much funding will be available.
Councillor Krystal Baier said, “With Alberta Infrastructure taking these funds away are their intentions that the municipalities just pick that up?  Or do they prefer that these hazardous wastes just go into the landfill?”
Mayor Zahara said, “This is just another example of back door downloading of costs to municipal taxpayers.” 
Mayor Zahara said that the buy in from the community with regards to recycling their residential hazardous material and use of the program is quite significant so the cost could be quite high.
Further meetings are scheduled for the coming week between Alberta Cares and Alberta Infrastructure and Thompson hopes to have answers to at least some of the questions in the coming weeks.  In a follow up interview Thompson said right now municipalities are in a “stand by” position knowing they will have to calculate new costs and a new system but without enough information to make any projections.
Yellowhead County, like the Town of Edson, said they do not have enough information at this time to know for sure what impact the changes will have on collection and disposal of this type of waste for residents.

Irresponsible OHV use causing damage

-County hears concerns regarding Sand Dunes and Community Pasture near Brule-
 
by Shaylyn Thornton
 
April 26, 2021 issue: Having access to outdoor recreation is a great benefit to living in Yellowhead County, with many beautiful areas to visit and enjoy. While most residents and visitors enjoy these areas responsibly, unfortunately there are also people who do not.
One area in Yellowhead County that is experiencing some irresponsible recreationists is the Brule area, specifically in the area of the Sand Dunes and the Brule Community Pasture.
County Councillor Lavone Olson has seen the issues herself and the problem was once again highlighted in an email from Division Chief (West) Perry Hayward of the Yellowhead County Fire Department.
The email spoke about an upturn in Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) usage in the area, and specifically mentioned “the operation of dirt bikes, mostly by younger persons.”
“They have no respect for other users and feel they have the right to ride wherever they wish,” said Hayward. “Because of the size of the machines, they are riding traditional hiking and equestrian trails that have been in use for over 100 years.”
Hayward said these riders are destroying trails, disturbing people and wildlife, and riding in areas that are closed to them such as Rock Lake, Solomon Creek Wildland Park, and Ogre Canyon.
Every year, OHV accidents occur in the area and are responded to by Yellowhead County. In March, an ATV accident occurred at the Brule Community Pasture, and Hayward outlined the cost to the taxpayer of this incident which would not have occurred “if the parties involved had not been riding in a closed area and without due care and caution.”
The ATVer drove over a cliff and fell 20 feet. Emergency response included: 1 RCMP car with 1 officer, 1 Basic Life Support Ambulance with 2 EMTs, 1 Advanced Life Support Ambulance with 2 Paramedics, 1 YCFD Engine with 1 Fire Officer and 1 Firefighter, 1 YCFD Pickup with 3 Firefighters, Trailer, and ATV, and 1YCFD pickup with Duty Officer from YCFD Headquarters in Edson.
“This totally preventable incident ultimately cost several thousand dollars,” wrote Hayward.
Olson brought the issue forward to Council, looking for a discussion on possible solutions. She spoke not only about the OHV usage but also in regard to people misusing the area, ignoring signage, and “going wherever they want.” She also spoke of the lack of washroom facilities in the area, and how it is leading to “a lot of human waste.”
Much of the area in question is crown land, so the County does not have full abilities to deal with issues. While Director of Protective Services Albert Bahri said they are “not hog-tied completely,” they do need assistance from other groups.
Olson spoke of a lack of presence and enforcement in the area, leading some people to believe they can act as they please. “It would help if they saw a police presence of any type,” she said, noting that if irresponsible users begin to receive fines, “word will spread.”
Members of Council reiterated that the vast majority of recreationists in the County are responsible. But even a small number of irresponsible users can cause irreparable damage, and cause injuries to themselves or others. “We need to make sure they’re safe,” said Olson. “We can’t just turn our heads.”
Council discussed and decided that, being that most of the area is crown land, their first steps need to be reaching out to other levels of government. Mayor Jim Eglinski said letters to MLAs, the Minister of Environment and Parks, and others will need to be put together.
The County will also be looking at what enforcement they could offer in the area, such as on access roads that are still County property. Director Bahri also commented that he, alongside other enforcement agencies, have “targeted blitzes” planned at different times this summer in different areas of the County, and that they could look to “reshape the program” and consider targeting that area more specifically.
Council also discussed the issue of a “random camping fee” that the Alberta government is set to put in place June 1. Concerns that the fee could encourage the misuse of crown land arose.
“We’re going to have a lot more people out there,” said Councillor Shawn Berry. “They’re actually advertising, ‘Come on out and destroy our Sand Dunes. Come on out and go in the bush and leave your garbage behind.’ That’s what they’re saying by permitting random camping.”
Berry said he personally doesn’t have an issue with random camping, as he has done so himself, but that the “proliferation of random camping and OHV is causing a lot of distress on our people and our environment.”
Berry raised concerns that the fee seemed like it could be a “cash cow” for the Province and wondered where the funds would go. Councillor Giezen commented that it would be important for the money to “go to the right place.”
Members of Council also noted that municipalities hadn’t been consulted before the decision of the random camping fee was announced.
Council directed Administration to prepare letters to other members of government regarding the issues in the Brule area as a first step in finding a solution. “Because if we don’t do anything, then how do they know we have a huge problem?” asked Olson.

Town Considers Automated Voting System

by Adrienne Tait

At the April 13 Committee of the Whole Meeting, Edson Town Administration brought forth a recommendation to Council that would see the Town utilize an Automated Voting System in the upcoming election.
Voters would still fill out the ballot cards as before. The votes would then be inserted into a machine which tabulates the votes before being dropped into the ballot box. Executive Assistant and Legislative Coordinator Kayla Parsons told Council that one of the advantages of the system is that if a ballot is spoiled, or not properly filled out, the machine will reject it and the voter will have the opportunity to fill out another, thereby ensuring their vote is counted.
As someone who has been involved in a judicial recount, Councillor Troy Sorensen said he can confirm that “hundreds of ballots are wasted because they are not filled out properly.” He added that ensuring each vote counts properly results in a more democratic system.
Parsons also said that the automated system will streamline and simplify the counting process.  Should there be a discrepancy, or a recount required, the physical ballots would still be in the sealed box and available for recount if needed.
Mayor Kevin Zahara asked what would happen if something went wrong with the system, such as a power outage. Parsons replied that the votes would then be manually counted as in years past.
The machines are portable and, as is traditionally done, one would be taken to Parkland Lodge and then the hospital to ensure residents who are unable to get to the Legion would still be eligible to vote.
Council also discussed the approval of special ballots for voters who are not able to vote on election day, either because of physical incapability or being absent from the local area. Councillor Janet Wilkinson said she hoped the travel restrictions would be lifted by the fall, which would allow voters who winter in Arizona to still take part.
Special ballots were used in the 2017 election, and seven voters took advantage of the opportunity.
While the government has not implemented any change in voter registration or procedures in case of quarantine, Council wanted to ensure the special ballots resolution was in place if needed.

 

COVID-19 P1 variant reaches Edson area; Mayor Zahara calls for more transparency from AHS

by Shaylyn Thornton
 
On April 6 the Alberta government announced that the province would be returning to Step 1 of their “A Path Forward” mandatory public health measures. The step back has been a disappointment for many, but with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise it wasn’t entirely a surprise.
Premier Jason Kenney acknowledged that a big reason for moving back to Step 1 involved the spread of variant cases in our province. A few weeks ago variant cases were about 100 per day, and on April 6 that number had risen to 676. As of April 6, variants make up more than 40 percent of active cases in Alberta.
One of the variants, the P1 variant from Brazil, has now been linked to cases in the Edson area. An outbreak at PTW Energy Services was linked to an out-of-province traveller, and travel between work sites across the Calgary and North zones has caused a spread of cases in employees and their household contacts.
Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara learned from media sources that the variant had been linked to Edson, rather than having the information come from any public health authority.
“Alberta Health Services has yet to inform the Town of Edson of this information. Throughout the pandemic Alberta Health Services has continually failed in providing local information to local communities,” Zahara wrote in a social media post on April 5. “Residents have a right to know this information so they can make informed decisions.”
Zahara said that some people in the Edson area had been “easing off” on restrictions, and that knowing the variant was here may have changed that. “For sure, folks were having some gatherings over the Easter long weekend,” he said. “Having known that P1 variant was in our community, they may have made a different choice.”
The information on which worksites were affected was provided to media sources by PTW Energy Services themselves, and Zahara pointed out that Edson still wouldn’t have known the P1 variant was in our area had the company decided against being transparent.
Zahara reached out to MLA Martin Long regarding the lack of communication and was able to have a call with Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta Health Services, the Emergency Management Agency, MLA Long, and communities impacted by the P1 variant in our region.
The meeting covered some information about the variant testing process. “Testing of the P1 variant takes time so there was a gap between the initial positive case and learning that it was this particular variant,” explained Zahara.
“Contact tracing was intensive at the beginning of this outbreak so the risk to the greater community is low at this point but we still need to be diligent,” Zahara added. “Further testing on the connected positive COVID cases is ongoing so more P1 variants may be found.”
“We had a good discussion on the situation and the process AHS followed for this outbreak. I stressed the need for communities to be informed of any significant changes and that we require more local information so we can respond appropriately,” said Zahara. “I thank MLA Long for taking my call immediately on this issue and working with Alberta Health to ensure communities concerns were heard.”

YCFD Regional Crew
Tackles Complex Rescue

(YC) Yellowhead County Fire Department (YCFD) members train tirelessly to be prepared for any emergency in the county. When protecting over 22,000 square kilometres of varied and distant terrain, you never know what to expect—but you best be prepared for anything when you get the call.
On March 27, 10 YCFD fire fighters put their training to the test when they were called in to respond to two people who had fallen down Pembina River's bank. Initial crews arrived within minutes, and support crews from throughout the county were immediately en route.
The crews found themselves setting up at midnight in cold, dark, and slippery conditions. Before them was a 30 foot cliff that would have to be carefully navigated. At the bottom of the cliff were the two people who had been stranded for over 24 hours.
Responding to structure fires is just one facet of YCFD's work. Rope rescue is a very real part of the job and a necessary skill to practice for our fire fighters. Luckily, our members throughout the region are thoroughly trained —they quickly assessed the situation and began a setup for a technical rope team rescue.
With the support of their crew, two rescuers rappelled down the sheer cliff and reached the stranded individuals. After a thorough assessment of their condition, rescuers then transferred them to a Stokes Basket—a type of splint stretcher meant to minimize trauma to injured persons.
The team at the top of the cliff began to haul the rescuers with the basketed individuals in tow. Thanks to the diligence and training of our members, the operation went smoothly, and the two people were soon turned over to EMS.
“Our members dedicate themselves to a profession that requires countless hours of training so that they can be the answer for an occasion such as this,” commented YCFD Fire Chief Albert Bahri. “This is a perfect example of how our fire fighters will respond to any situation when the public calls on them.”
Find out how you can train with the county's finest and serve your community proudly by visiting www.yhcfirefighters.com.

Edson Risk Level Change – Medium Risk

Edson, Alberta, March 24th, 2021 – With the recent rise in local COVID-19 cases in the Edson zone, the Town of Edson’s Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) has moved the community back into the ‘Medium Risk’ category within the ECC’s Strategic Operational Plan. As of March 23rd, there are 10 active cases in our zone. For more information on the ECC and the Strategic Operational Plan, please visit www.edson.ca/ecc.
The ECC will continue to meet weekly at this time to evaluate the Provincial orders and how they impact Town of Edson operations, as well as to continue to develop and implement relaunch and recovery initiatives.
Masking - Masks are still required in all indoor public places and workspaces. The Town of Edson’s Mandatory Facial Covering Bylaw is set to expire on March 31st; however, the Provincial Order remains in effect. Information on masking, as well as downloadable posters for businesses can be found at https://www.alberta.ca/masks.aspx.
Health Measures - At this time, everyone is reminded to continue to follow the Provincial orders in place regarding masking, gathering limits, and business restrictions. For the full list, please visit https://www.alberta.ca/enhanced-public-health-measures.aspx. Step 3 was recently delayed by the Province due to rising cases, variant cases, and hospitalizations.
Along with the Provincial orders, the ECC would like to reinforce the importance of other public health measures to continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
· Stay 2 metres apart from others,
· Wear a mask in public spaces, indoor workplaces and places of worship,
Practice good hygiene: wash your hands often and cover coughs and sneezes,
Monitor your symptoms every day,
If sick, stay home, get tested, and follow mandatory isolation requirements while waiting for results:
if positive, isolate for 10 days or until symptoms are gone, whichever is longer,
if negative, stay home until you are symptom free.
More information on Edson’s COVID-19 response can be found at www.edson.ca/covid

Province making changes to Disaster Funding model

Municipalities will have to cover 10% of uninsured losses
 
by Shaylyn Thornton
 
March 22, 2021: In an effort to reduce provincial spending on disasters in Alberta, changes to the Disaster Relief Program (DRP) are in the works to begin in the 2021 Disaster Season (Fiscal Year 2021-22).
According to MLA Martin Long, the DRP “is used for extraordinary events not covered by typical average insurance policies and which have caused widespread damage to property. An event is considered widespread if the disaster has caused damage to property over multiple areas and/or jurisdictions, extending over a large area or number of people.”
While some details of the disaster recovery funding are still in the process of being evaluated by the province, known changes include cost-sharing arrangements and funding caps.
Cost-sharing arrangements for all DRP eligible costs include a 90:10 cost-share between the Government of Alberta (GoA), municipalities, and Metis Settlements, as well as a 90:10 cost-share between the GoA and all private sector applicants with funding caps and repeat assistance limitations.
For homeowners, a $500,00 funding cap will be introduced, as well as a one-time assistance limit per property. The one-time limit begins in 2021 and will not be applied retroactively.
According to Municipal Affairs and Community and Social Services, “Disasters are becoming more expensive, creating increased liability for the Government of Alberta.”
In fact, six of the top ten costliest Canadian natural disasters for insurance payouts have occurred in Alberta. In the last five years, the cost of insurance payouts was $7.5 billion. The Fort McMurray wildfires in 2016, the floods near Calgary in 2013, and the Slave Lake fire in 2011 are some of the biggest culprits. Since 2010, the average annual DRP cost per year of uninsured losses is $240 million – a number that continues to rise.
The provincial government says that these changes to disaster funding programs will bring Alberta in line with most other provinces and will help to encourage provincial-municipal cooperation to reduce costs. The province of BC has an 80:20 cost-share program in place with their municipalities.
“Until now, Alberta was the only province that did not share the financial risks and liability of unexpected disaster expenses. The cost and frequency of disasters in Alberta are increasing, and the province needs a more sustainable approach to disaster recovery,” said MLA Long. “By implementing a stronger framework to deal with emergencies and disasters, these changes help ensure the DRP can continue to be available for Albertans when they need it most.”
“The standard practice of cost-sharing that has been established across the country also helps incentivize municipalities and homeowners to improve risk management by purchasing appropriate insurance, reducing property development in high-risk areas, and mitigating or relocating to less disaster-prone areas,” Long added.
For Yellowhead County, covering 10% of the uninsured losses of a natural disaster could have a major effect on already vulnerable local budgets. Mayor Jim Eglinski said, “Unfortunately, this is a reality that we have to deal with. The costs of disasters can have a significant impact on a community in terms of financial and social costs, and that can have long-term consequences both emotionally and financially on our community.”
“We understand that this new model is in line with other provinces’ disaster recovery assistance programs. We may be required to help shoulder the cost of for our residents and businesses,” said Eglinski. “However, we are concerned about the financial impacts this could have on our municipality and taxpayers and that these potential costs could be substantial.”
Eglinski noted that the changes are “downloading of what was previously entirely a provincial responsibility.” “Still, it’s something we have to deal with and will have to work with the province on moving forward,” he added.
Regarding being incentivized to improve risk management, the County has already been focused on reducing risk. “As a county, we try to be as pro-active as possible in terms of disaster prevention,” said Eglinski. Programs that the municipality has in place include FireSmart, the removal of trees affected by the Mountain Pine Beetle, restricting development in potential flood zones, as well as various strategies and resources for both structural and wildfire firefighting.
“Some of these programs are funded through provincial grants, and others are financed directly by the County, and these programs will vary from year-to-year,” explained Eglinski. “For example, we've received provincial assistance over the last several years to improve the pine beetle issue in our area.”
Of the one-time assistance limit and $500,000 funding cap for homeowners, Mayor Eglinski said, “We understand that some restrictions have to be put in place and that these limits may negatively impact some property owners. However, that has to be balanced with the financial burdens from a major disaster that could have significant long-term financial impacts on the County's and province's budget stability moving forward.”
MLA Long noted that “the Alberta government’s $500,000 funding cap for residential homeowners is the largest of any province in Canada.”
“It is our goal to protect both lives and livelihoods and that includes Albertans facing unforeseen disasters,” Long said. “Despite the financial challenges we’ve had to absorb during this global pandemic and economic crisis, our government remains committed to protecting Albertans. These new measures will also help us keep taxes low, hold the debt-to-GDP ratio below 30 per cent and gradually bring spending in line with other comparable provinces.”
For homeowners looking to reduce some of their risk, Mayor Eglinski encouraged taking part in the FireSmart program. “Residents can also get in touch with a FireSmart Community Engagement Specialist for their property, as there are several resources available for implementing FireSmart safe practices for their house and property,” he said. Information can be found at firesmartcanada.ca.

 

Town Council likely to let Mandatory Mask Bylaw expire

- Masks will still be required under Provincial Mandate -
 
by Adrienne Tait
 
At the March 9 Committee of the Whole Meeting, Edson Town Council discussed whether they should extend the Mandatory Facial Covering Bylaw until December 31, 2021 or let it lapse at the March 31, 2021 expiry date.
Mayor Kevin Zahara said, “I am of the opinion that we do not need a municipal bylaw for mandatory masks anymore, with the provincial government stepping up and doing their responsibilities. All along it should have been a Health decision not a Municipal decision.”
Councillor Jacqui Currie agreed. “Health is in the Provincial mandate, not the Municipal mandate,” she said, before asking whether the bylaw needed to be in place for enforcement purposes.
General Manager of Community and Protective Services Al Schram said that, regarding enforcement, the Town has never really had to use it as they have focused more on information and education. 
Zahara added that “there is a lot of confusion right now” regarding mask mandates. He has fielded questions from the community such as why people still need to wear masks and why the Town has not lifted the mandate with the current lower case numbers.
Council was unanimous in expressing their support for letting the bylaw expire now that the province has a plan in place and with the vaccine roll out underway.
The Provincial Mandatory Mask Mandate is still in effect. Even if Council allows the local bylaw to expire, Edson residents will still be required to wear facial coverings in indoor public spaces until the mandate is lifted at the Provincial level.

Edson Food Bank closes temporarily for renovations

by Deanna Mitchener

March 5, 2021: The Edson Food Bank will be closed for some renovations from March 8 to March 12. The building will not be accessible during that week, so volunteers encourage clients to visit beforehand, or wait until they are able to reopen the doors.
The Food Bank first needs to address some asbestos removal in the building, which is why the building will be closed. After the week of asbestos removal, volunteers will return and work around the continued renovations.
“We are pretty excited about the renovations, we are going to wipe out the back area, where we generally use for building the hampers,” said Jacey Kemp-Cox, President and Acting Director of the Edson Food Bank.
“We will be adding carts making it a lot easier on our volunteers. Not as much bending and lifting which is how it has always been over the years,” said Kemp-Cox. She noted that while the volunteers always “did what we needed to do,” some eventually “had to step away, due to it being hard on their system.”
The volunteers are all looking forward to the renovations being completed, which Kemp-Cox said is “a big deal.” “We are pretty stoked, a wall removal and some fresh paint, new flooring. We are pretty confident in the work that will be getting done by B-line Carpentry,” she said.
The Edson Food Bank looks forward to serving their clients again once their building is accessible.

Edson Risk Level changes to "Low"

Edson, Feb. 24, 2021 – As Covid-19 active case counts in the Edson area have held at 10 or under for several weeks now, the Town of Edson's Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) has moved the community down to the 'Low Risk' level within Bylaw 2250, the Mandatory Facial Covering Bylaw. As the Provincial Health Orders remain in place, this DOES NOT change anything regarding masking and business restrictions, however, does allow for a continued review of Edson facilities and operations.
The ECC will continue to meet weekly at this time to evaluate the Provincial orders and how they impact Town of Edson operations, as well as to continue to develop and implement relaunch and recovery initiatives.
At this time, everyone is reminded to continue to follow the Provincial orders in place regarding masking, gathering limits, and business restrictions. For the full list, please visit https://www.alberta.ca/enhanced-public-health-measures.aspx. A decision on Step 2 of the Provincial Path Forward is expected early next week.
Along with the Provincial orders, the ECC would like to reinforce the importance of other public health measures to continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
- Stay 2 metres apart from others,
- Wear a mask in public spaces, indoor workplaces and places of worship,
- Practice good hygiene: wash your hands often and cover coughs and sneezes,
- Monitor your symptoms every day,
- If sick, stay home, get tested, and follow mandatory isolation requirements while waiting for results:
 - if positive, isolate for 10 days or until symptoms are gone, whichever is longer,
- if negative, stay home until you're well.
More information on Edson's COVID-19 response can be found at www.edson.ca/covid. 

County hires new Chief Administrative Officer

Yellowhead County (Feb. 16, 2021) – After an extensive search, Yellowhead County will be hiring Luc Mercier as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). Mercier will be replacing Jack Ramme, who is retiring after 18 years of service for Yellowhead County.
“This was not an effortless process,” said Mayor Jim Eglinski. “As a council, when we set out to recruit administrative leadership for this region, we look for the right mix of management experience and passion to guide our staff in serving residents and stakeholders. Luc Mercier, as our new CAO, is certainly part of our goal to build a better community for present and future generations.”
Mercier comes with over 30 years of municipal experience, 19 of which have been as CAO. After spending the last two and half years as the CAO for the Municipal District of Bonnyville, Mercier says he's excited to be back in western Alberta, where he and his wife have lived for over 24 years.
“I am thrilled at the opportunity to work with the dedicated council, staff, and residents of Yellowhead County and look forward to many years' service to the region,” said Mercier. Mercier will begin the position at the beginning of April.

Random Acts of Kindness Week Feb. 14 to 20th

by Deanna Mitchener
 
Random Acts of Kindness week in Edson will take place from February 14 to the 20.
The Community Engagement Action Team is going to be spreading messages of kindness and sharing ideas with the community throughout the week. Check them out on Facebook and Instagram @CEAT2017 to follow along and celebrate RAK Week with them!
Reusable shopping totes will also be available at various shopping locations around Edson. They’re free and will be given out randomly to shoppers.
Have you created your 'Digital Story' yet? You can be entered for a chance to win $100 Edson Bucks and the runner-up gets $50 in Edson Bucks. Create a 1-2 minute video sharing the message of what it means to be kind. Videos can be comprised of video clips, images, and audio. It can be a poem spoken with a slideshow of images or a song and dance —whatever you want! Get creative and share your message. Deadline for submission is February 17. For more information visit edson.ca/CEAT or call Ali at 780-517-7055.
On Tuesday, February 16 tune into “Bullying: Can We Stop It?” presented by the SAFFRON Centre and hosted by Edson FCSS. In the light of Random Acts of Kindness Week, what better discussion to have than the power of kindness.
At the end of the week CEAT is gifting you a FREE donut! Visit Sobeys Edson on February 19 for a free donut at the check-out. Donuts will be available while supplies last.
Random act of kindness can include ideas like sharing a random act of kindness with a neighbour, family member or friend! Dropping off a small note or care package. Shovel a walk way or clean the snow off a car. Pay for someone’s order at the drive-thru or just walk up to someone and hand them a gift card, and so much more!
You can even be a RAK-tivist. According to the Random Acts of Kindness Organization a “RAK-tivist is a kindness ambassador, and like all ambassadors, they’re a part of an active, global community who are helping to make kindness the norm.”  There are 36,288 people registered across 89 different countries currently. Anyone can apply to be a RAK-tivist, just by visiting randomactsofkindness.org/become-a-raktivist
Remember, it only takes one! Kindness is contagious, so get out there and —be kind.
(see page 6 of our Feb.15, 2021 issue)

Demolition is likely fate of old Edson Hospital -but who'll pay?

by Adrienne Tait
The fate of the old Edson hospital is once again on the table. In a letter to Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Edson Town Council is urging the provincial government to take responsibility for the building and not leave the cost of demolition or abatement to the Town.
At the Town Council Meeting on February 2, it was revealed that AHS proposed the Town rent the building for one year, after which AHS would sell it to the Town for $1.  AHS further indicated that they had been approached by a couple of local community groups to rent the building but were unable to accommodate the requests due to operating costs and because leasing buildings is outside of AHS’ mandate.
According to AHS, the operating costs are approximately $210,000 annually. Additionally, Town Administration advised, “There are millions of dollars of deferred maintenance relating to this building, along with some old/failing internal infrastructure and asbestos.”
In 2016, Alberta Infrastructure estimated the abatement and demolition costs of the building to be $3.4 million. AHS has not included the demolition of the building in their budget for the foreseeable future.
The letter to Minister Shandro said, in part, “It would not be financially prudent for our municipality to take on an additional $210,000+/year within our operating budget for a facility that would add very little value to our taxpayers. Further, we fear the operational costs would only be the start of the expenses needed to keep this building operational. We understand that there are millions of dollars in deferred maintenance, along with antiquated internal infrastructure, a failing foundation and asbestos. Given the age of this building and all of the issues that accompany it, the structure is truly at the end of its life.”
The Edson Friendship Centre’s Kristie Gomuwka represented one of the community groups that considered renting the old hospital to use for transitional housing and emergency shelter space.  Gomuwka said they determined using the building would not be viable. Exorbitant utility costs and the maintenance required, including the cost of replacing the aging boiler system, were prohibiting factors.
The old hospital, which was built in 1968, was most recently used as a senior’s lodge while the new Parkland Lodge was under construction. Residents moved into the new lodge on November 20th, once again leaving the old hospital building vacant.
The Evergreens Foundation CAO Kristen Chambers said, “When we agreed to move into the building [the old hospital] we knew it was at its end of life. The state of the building was as expected but we knew going in there was approximately $11 million in deferred maintenance that needed to be done.”
Chambers said the risk of having something fail was a risk the Evergreens Foundation was willing to take as it was a short term move, it reduced construction time on the new lodge by approximately eight months, and it meant residents did not have to live in a construction zone. 
When asked if it would have been feasible to remain in the building Chambers said, “We feel we exhausted the useful life span of the building.” It was also noted that the design of the building does not allow for the isolation of one wing. 
Chambers confirmed their basic utility bills were approximately $200,000 per year, and said those bills could have been much higher as the foundation qualified for a very low negotiated rate that would not be available to the average business or group.
Chambers added that in addition to mechanical issues, plumbing issues, and the presence of too many hazardous materials to make renovating feasible, AHS identified geotechnical issues as well.
The letter to Minister Shandro also states, “It should not be the onus of the citizens of Edson to take responsibility for another government organization’s failing building or the consequences that will result should the building remain standing and uncared for. Edson Town Council is asking your Government to take responsibility for its building.”

Evansburg RCMP investigate multi-family dwelling residential fire

On Jan. 26, 2021, shortly after 3 a.m., an Evansburg RCMP officer was patrolling in Evansburg and noticed a multi-family residential duplex on fire in the area of 49 Street and 52 Avenue.
The Evansburg RCMP officer attended to assist and notified the Yellowhead County Fire Department who attended. The Evansburg RCMP officer evacuated two elderly occupants; however, it is believed two remaining residents of one half of the duplex, an adult female and a teen, were unable to leave one of the duplexes before it became engulfed.
It took firefighters six hours to douse the flames as the home was fully engaged when fire crews arrived. RCMP state that recovery efforts for the mother and her teenage child was a challenging process due to the cold weather and damage from the fire. 
At approximately 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 27, the structure was sufficiently cleared of debris to allow for a search. At that time, a specialized canine from Firestorm Consulting Group, who searches for cadavers was called upon to attend. A search was conducted and at approximately 2:45 p.m., the remains of the 50-year-old female and her 16-year-old son, who were believed to have been unable to leave the structure, were located inside with the assistance of the specialized canine.
RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Deanna Fontaine stated, "This is a very tragic situation and our heart goes out to this family."
Local MP Gerald Soroka stated, "The Han Family, owners of Evansburg Family Foods, had a tragic fire at their home and lost everything. Sadly the family also lost members in this tragic accident. The Han’s are very generous, community-minded people who have supported Evansburg for the past 20 years. Now they need our support."
Director of Protective Services for Yellowhead County Albert Bahri  stated that investigators are still working to determine where and how the fire started. The Evansburg RCMP continue to investigate this incident and have not yet received a formal report from the fire investigator for the Alberta Office of the Fire Commission.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise funds for the family.
Update: Evansburg RCMP have received a preliminary report from the fire investigator for the Alberta Office of the Fire Commission indicating the multi-family residential fire that occurred on Jan. 26, 2021, is non-suspicious in origin. No further updates are anticipated.

Family Day Unplugged going ahead

by Deanna Mitchener
 
   During the week of February 8-15th, Town of Edson Community Development Coordinators Ali Broda, Krysta Hawboldt, and Sarah McDonald invite families to visit Willmore Park for a Family Day Unplugged event.
   “We’ve been working together with the Canadian Parents for French group here in Edson to bring back Bonhomme and French aspects into celebrations this year, like maple candy and of course involving our second language as Canadians, French,” said Broda. “We encourage you to visit our beautiful park with your cohorts any day this week, to participate in the activities we have planned for you! These activities will ensure that you are able to stay safe, maintaining distance from others while having so much fun!”
   Broda recommends checking out alberta.ca/covid19 prior to the event for the most up-to-date COVID-19 restrictions.”
   “We continue to celebrate Family Day Unplugged because it is so important to get outside and disconnect, to connect with one another,” explained Broda. “Disconnect from the internet and connect with your family.”
   Plans for Family Day Unplugged include a French-English Scavenger Hunt through the trails and a Snowathalon. “Both of which have opportunities to win family fun prize packs!” said Broda.
   What is a Snowathalon you ask? “We challenge you to play outside and ice skate at one of the rinks or on a lake (if it’s cold enough and the ice is safe), toboggan at one of the hills in and around town, and snowshoe! If you don’t have snowshoes, we challenge you to go for a nice, long winter walk,” explained Broda. “Be sure to snap a picture of your cohort completing each activity for a chance to win.”
   Families can also join the Scavenger Hunt for Family Day Unplugged. This activity is designed to be done with your cohort, able to maintain distance from others. “Keep in mind you have all week to visit the park to participate,” said Broda. “We have a trail outlined out at Willmore for an interactive Scavenger Hunt we’ve created alongside Canadian Parents for French. With your cohort, grab a paper sack from the Green Shack out at Willmore, and find directions inside.”
   There’s a chance to win prizes, so be sure to read the directions carefully! More information and details about the Snowathalon, Scavenger Hunt, and event in general can be found at edson.ca/familyfun.
   If you have any questions, you can connect with the team on Facebook at Town of Edson Community Services or call their admin at 780-723-4403 and she will direct you to one of the coordinators. “Stay safe and have fun!” said Broda.

 

Debenture: "Last piece of funding model" for Multi-Use facility

by Adrienne Tait
 
Jan 18, 2021: At the January 12, 2021 Committee of the Whole meeting Town Council discussed the debenture bylaw for the multi-use facility. 
Interim CAO Sarah Bittner told Council the bylaw is the “last piece of the funding model” for the Multiplex and the Municipal Government Act (MGA) requires Council to have the bylaw in place prior to the start of construction.  A debenture bylaw, which outlines details such as amount, term, and interest rate, takes time to put in place as it must be advertised for 15 days after first reading and does not become valid until 30 days after third reading. 
The $70 million facility is a joint project with Yellowhead County.  To date, a $20 million grant from the federal government, a $16.5 million grant from the province through MSI, $15 million from Yellowhead County, and $9.5 million from the Town of Edson capital reserves has been secured.  The remaining $9 million is to be secured in the form of a debenture taken out over a 30-year term.
Councillor Krystal Baier asked what tax increase residents could expect on a $350,000 home and was advised, based on the anticipated 3% increase, the average household would see approximately $122/year added to their property tax bill.
Councillor Troy Sorensen inquired about other possible means of repayment such as reserves or levies.  CAO Bittner said she could look at rewording the bylaw slightly so repayment is not taxation specific and noted it would then have to go back to the Capital Finance Authority for approval.
Councillor Janet Wilkinson inquired about the $2 million in reserve for a Fine Arts/Cultural Centre and asked if those funds could be used to lower the debenture amount then paid back later, as the interest on the loan would likely be more than interest accrued in reserve.  “If we get donations then what a great thing and we could just put it back into the $2 million,” Wilkinson said.
Bittner said Council would have to budget to pay back the reserve and would then be funding the entire project including the $2 million.
$9 million “absolutely is a lot of money,” said Mayor Kevin Zahara, but acknowledged he felt Edson has done well when compared with similar projects, such as a $30 million Southern Alberta facility for which that municipality had to borrow $13 million. 
Mayor Zahara said, “We can certainly look at some alternatives. I wouldn’t want to hit that button quite yet.  There is so much uncertainty with COVID and the economy and we have been hit with a couple of significant infrastructure failures.  I certainly would want to see that we have money in our reserves available for those sorts of things.”
Councillor Jacqui Currie, who was chairing the meeting, confirmed Council could put the debenture bylaw in place for $9 million but choose to draw down less without penalty.  Councillor Currie said, “We have to do this either way.  The amount can be changed and I would prefer to look at that closer to the date, look at where our reserves are, and know where things are going with COVID.”
Councillors Currie, Sorensen, Baier, and Mayor Zahara were in favour moving forward with the debenture bylaw in order to ensure it is in place when the project is ready to proceed.  It will be brought to a regular Council meeting at a later date. 

Extended Provincial COVID Regulations

Edson, Alberta, January 8th, 2021 – The Provincial government has announced the extension of the current COVID-19 restrictions. Citing high active case numbers, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and daily death counts, Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement that the measures put in place last month would continue until at least January 21st, 2021.
Locally, active case numbers have continued to decline. As of the end of day January 6th, the Edson Zone (Central Yellowhead County) is listed as having 14 active cases, 218 recovered, and 1 death. There has been a total of 233 cases to date for this local geographic area.
PROVINCIAL RESTRICTIONS
Expanded health measures are in effect province-wide. All Albertans, businesses, organizations and service providers must follow all new health measures.
While in-school learning is scheduled to start again on January 11th, the remaining measures will stay in place until at least January 21st, 2021.
https://www.alberta.ca/enhanced-public-health-measures.aspx
SOCIAL GATHERINGS
• All indoor and outdoor social gatherings – public and private – are prohibited. This does not apply to service visits from caregivers, health or child care providers and co-parenting arrangements.
• Close contacts are limited to household members only. Individuals who live alone may have the same two non-household close contacts for the duration of this restriction.
MANDATORY MASKING
• The mandatory indoor public masking requirement will be extended province-wide.
• Applies to all indoor workplaces and facilities outside the home. Applies to employees, visitors and the general public. Farm operations are excluded.
PLACES OF WORSHIP
• All places of worship will be limited to 15% of fire code occupancy for in-person attendance, with physical distancing and masking.
• Virtual or online services are strongly encouraged.
• Drive-in services where individuals do not leave their vehicles and adhere to guidance will be permissible and are not subject to capacity restrictions.
RETAIL SERVICES
• Retail services must reduce customer capacity to 15% of fire code occupancy, with a minimum of 5 customers.
• Curbside pick up, delivery and online services are encouraged.
• Shopping malls will be limited to 15% of fire code occupancy.
CLOSURES
• Restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes will be closed to in-person service. Only take out, curbside pickup and delivery services are permitted.
• Casinos, bingo halls, gaming entertainment centres, racing entertainment centres, horse tracks, raceways, bowling alleys, pool halls, legions, and private clubs will be closed.
• Recreational facilities – fitness centres, recreation centres, pools, spas, gyms, studios, day and overnight camps, indoor rinks and arenas – will be closed.
• Entertainments businesses and entities – libraries, science centres, interpretive centres, museums, galleries, amusement parks and water parks – will be closed.
• Hotels may remain open but must follow restrictions – no spas, pools or in-person dining. Room services only.
• Personal and wellness services, including hair salons, nail salons, massage, tattoos, and piercing, will be closed.
• Health services, including physiotherapy or acupuncture, social or protective services, shelters for vulnerable persons, emergency services, childcare, and not-for-profit community kitchens, or charitable kitchens will remain open for in-person attendance.
WORK FROM HOME
• Mandatory work from home measures will be implemented unless the employer determines that work requires a physical presence for operational effectiveness.

Edson Mayor looks back on 2020

by Shaylyn Thornton
 
Jan 11, 2021: As we all cautiously enter into 2021 hoping that it is a much different experience than 2020, it is a great time to look back on the year and consider the challenges that we have overcome and the many lessons we have learned.
Town of Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara shared some of his thoughts on 2020 in an interview with The Weekly Anchor.
 
Q: Obviously, the big theme of 2020 was the pandemic. What kind of impact did COVID have on the Town? How do you feel about the Town's response to the situation?
A: “Like every business and organization, the pandemic changed how we operated and created many unknowns.  It certainly took most of our attention during the year as we adjusted to ever changing information.  While there have been many struggles, I believe we have weathered the storm fairly well with many businesses adapting to the changing dynamic through curbside pick-up and increased online presence.  Residents worked really hard to follow guidelines and support each other.   Town Council provided nearly $750,000 in tax relief and utility credits in the spring to assist residents and businesses.  We also created a $300,000 loan program through Community Futures, and hired a Business Liaison to give businesses extra support during this difficult time.  I think we did really well overall and are in a good position to recover in the future.”
 
Q:What was the biggest challenge(s) of 2020 for you as Mayor, and how did you handle them? If different challenges for the Town as a

ndate, not the Municipal mandate,” she said, before asking whether the bylaw needed to be in place for enforcement purposes.
General Manager of Community and Protective Services Al Schram said that, regarding enforcement, the Town has never really had to use it as they have focused more on information and education. 
Zahara added that “there is a lot of confusion right now” regarding mask mandates. He has fielded questions from the community such as why people still need to wear masks and why the Town has not lifted the mandate with the current lower case numbers.
Council was unanimous in expressing their support for letting the bylaw expire now that the province has a plan in place and with the vaccine roll out underway.
The Provincial Mandatory Mask Mandate is still in effect. Even if Council allows the local bylaw to expire, Edson residents will still be required to wear facial coverings in indoor public spaces until the mandate is lifted at the Provincial level. whole, what would they be?
A: “Like everyone, a pandemic is not something we have experienced so there is no playbook.  There are often no good decisions, only difficult ones and we just have tried to make the best decisions we can for the overall safety of our community.  The biggest challenge as Mayor is that most of the decisions are made by other levels of government, but the public looks to local leadership for answers to questions.  This is why we started doing regular videos to answer common inquiries and to provide clarification where required.  Keeping updated on everything and being responsive in a timely fashion to the volume of inquiries has probably been one of the largest challenges.”
 
Q: What are some of the Town's biggest accomplishments in 2020?
A: “I’m proud of the fact that despite COVID, Council instituted the Non-Residential Tax Incentive Bylaw to spur development and approved the Home Builders Incentive Program to encourage construction in Hillendale.  We also continued progress on the Multi-plex including receiving $20 Million in grant funding from the Federal Government, the most handed out to any community outside of the major cities.  That was a huge accomplishment. We also seen the opening of Parkland Lodge and the Bike Skills Park at Willmore this year which are wonderful additions to our community.”
 
Q: What were some of the main disappointments from 2020, with the pandemic causing so many issues?
A: “Not having our regular community events and the cancellation of things like Canada Day and hockey were some of the bigger disappointments I think for Council and the general public. Council also has a pretty aggressive Strategic Plan and due to the attention given to the pandemic, we have not been able to maybe accomplish as much as we wanted this year.”
 
Q: As Mayor, what are you most proud of when you look back at 2020? What are you most disappointed about?
A: “I think I’m most proud of the fact of how the community has come together to support one another.  Various parades for seniors, healthcare workers, birthdays etc.  People helping each other, taking care of our seniors and most vulnerable and an increased focus on supporting local business.  In addition, Town Staff really I think did an impeccable job of responding and trying to create COVID safe opportunities throughout the year. The biggest disappointment is of course COVID and how it created so much stress and anxiety for everyone.”
 
Q:What lessons have you learned in 2020 that you plan to take into 2021 and into the years forward?
A: “A good internet connection and Zoom are your best friends in a pandemic.  No seriously, I think that the pandemic has shown everyone what is important in life and that we shouldn’t sweat the small things and appreciate what we have… our friends, families, work, and community.”
 
Q:Do you have a message for Edson residents as we head into 2021?
A: “The last several months have been incredibility difficult but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  We need to continue to follow health protocols so we can get to the other side of this pandemic quicker.  We have much to look forward to in 2021 with continued TMX construction, TC Energy Pipeline Projects, construction of the Cascade Power Plant, along with all the things that make our community great such as our trails and outdoor recreational activities.  Things will get better and Edson will be stronger because of it.  When it is safe to do so, we certainly will be looking at putting a big event together to celebrate our community.”

A better tomorrow

Editorial by Dana McArthur

December 21, 2020: The consensus for most of us is that we can't wait to put 2020 in our rear view mirrors.
A lot has happened this year between the good, the bad, and the ugly —and anything more we can say about the grief, loss, unemployment, bankruptcies, and hardships would likely be a serious understatement.
As we look forward to ringing in the New Year it really is a cause for celebration, even if we can't gather with friends and extended family members this year. Thankfully, there are still plenty of creative ways to connect to those we care about.
As glasses are raised, whether it's online or in person with family, it's important to recognize the special opportunities the New Year brings. 2021 offers us a new beginning, a fresh start, and the hope of returning to our more familiar 'normal'.
Whether your New Year's resolution consists of finding new ways to exercise, putting your hand in the cookie jar less often, or giving your heartfelt best in your relationships with loved ones —it's about doing the little things with great love that defines the year we will have.
As this year draws to a close, let's all look forward to a 2021 filled with the promise of a brighter, and better tomorrow.
Albert Einstein said it beautifully, "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow."
- Happy New Year from the staff and management at The Weekly Anchor.

Province-wide mandatory mask requirement and new restrictions announced

December 14, 2020: Due to Alberta’s high COVID-19 infection rate and case numbers, the provincial government stated it is taking aggressive action to keep the health system from being overwhelmed.
On December 8, Premier Jason Kenney imposed a mandatory province-wide mask requirement, ordered the closure of all casinos and gyms, banned dine-in at restaurants and bars, and banned all outdoor and indoor social gatherings. (Farms are excluded from the mask mandate.)
Retail businesses, as of December 13, will be allowed to remain open but must reduce capacity to 15% of fire code occupancy. Places of worship will have the same restriction. 
"I know how devastating today's announcement and these measures are for tens of thousands of small business owners who have been coping through an impossibly difficult year," Kenny stated.
 The Premier says he recognizes the measures will change how Albertans celebrate Christmas, "They are necessary to slow the growth in cases, hospitalizations and deaths." He reiterated that at-home social gatherings are the biggest single source of viral spread.
"If we relax the public health measures to permit large family gatherings now, we will without a shadow of a doubt, see a large increase in hospitalizations and fatalities," Kenney said. "We simply cannot let this Christmas turn into a tragedy for many families." 
The mask mandate and the ban on social gatherings took effect immediately. The other new restrictions go into effect at midnight on December 13. 
 Indoor and outdoor social close-contact will be limited to the same household. People who live alone may still have up to two non-household close contacts, but they must be the same two throughout the duration.
The ban on gatherings also include indoor workplace lunchrooms etc. Workplace meetings will be allowed but in-person attendance should be as limited as possible and physical distancing should be followed. Funerals and wedding ceremonies will be limited to 10 people.
The restrictions do not apply to service visits from caregivers, health or childcare providers, or co-parenting arrangements.
The closures taking effect on Dec. 13 include all:
- Restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes to in-person service. 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.
Regulated health services such as physiotherapy, social or protective services, shelters for vulnerable persons, emergency services, and soup kitchens can remain open for in-person attendance.
For more details visit: www.alberta.ca/enhanced-public-health-measures.aspx