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Athabasca-area municipalities and organizations respond to COVID-19 precautions

Rec facilities have been closed, officials are monitoring the situation
ATHABASCA – In an effort to quell the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) municipalities, Aspen View Public Schools, Athabasca University and other facilities have developed a response based on the recommendations of the Alberta government. 

Town of Athabasca 

The Town of Athabasca announced on Friday that they will continue to monitor the situation and react as needed. 

“We are working with health care providers in our community and taking their advice. We are also following provincial directives as they are announced,” the press release said. 

The Town also said they are not banning public events but are strongly encouraging everyone to follow the provincial guidelines. 

“No bans on public gatherings but these are the provincial guidelines; the following mass gatherings should be cancelled: 

  • Events with more than 50 attendees that involves international participants, critical infrastructure staff, seniors, or other high-risk populations. 

  • Large events with more than 250 attendees: 

  • Includes: sporting events, conferences and community events 

  • Does not include: places of worship, grocery stores, airports or shopping centres. 

Events that do not meet this criterion can proceed, but risk mitigation measures must be in place, such as providing sanitizer stations and distancing between attendees.” 

The press release also encouraged residents to follow all precautions including proper hand washing, using hand sanitizer if hand washing is unavailable, sanitizing all surfaces, sneezing into your sleeve and to stop shaking hands. 

“If you feel ill: Self-isolate – stay home, away from other people;  Phone 811 to get information on what you should do. The line is very busy; just be patient. 

If you feel seriously ill – go to the hospital emergency. This is true whether you have COVID-19 or any other illness,” the release concluded. 

Athabasca County 

As of March 16 the County Office, Public Works and FCSS/Parent Link Centre are closed to public access. All three remain open for telephone inquiries and electronic corrospondence (email responses).

Athabasca County released a similar statement March 13: 

Athabasca County has been actively monitoring the progression of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and reviewing recommendations from provincial and federal health officials. Our priority is the protection of members of the public and our staff.  

Our office currently remains open to the public.  

The following steps are being taken to protect the health of our residents, our employees, and their families: 

  • Cancellation of, or participation in, all non-essential public gatherings including conferences and local events; 

  • Taking extra precautions with the cleaning of public facilities; 

  • Providing our staff with direction to stay home and self-isolate if they, or members of their family, are showing symptoms or have travelled internationally,   

These initial steps will help protect members of the public, as well as staff. 

We are continuing to monitor the situation and will provide updates on County operations as they become available. 

Village of Boyle 

Boyle did not have a formal press release but interim CAO Robert Jorgensen said in a phone interview that they are following AHS guidelines and that they are monitoring the situation closely. 

"We're just following what they're telling us,” Jorgensen said. “The main thing is to follow what Alberta Health says; if you think you have it phone 811 and stay home.” 

He added that due to the provincial guidelines of no more than 250 people gathered and Minor Hockey cancelling the season they chose to shut down the arena early. 

“The arena was going to shut down anyway. We've talked to the people involved and because of everything they've canceled all their things that were happening. So, why run an artificial ice plant,” he explained. 


The Athabasca Regional Multiplex has also suspended all activities as of 6 p.m. on March 15. 

Multiplex board chair Robert Balay read part of the announcement in an interview before it went live on the website. 

“The Athabasca Regional Multiplex will close to the public until further notice and then it goes on to say that measures are being taken to protect our patrons, staff members and community,” he said. “As we work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 we appreciate your cooperation understanding. For updates please visit our website.” 

Athabasca University 

For its part, Athabasca University has created a COVID-19 Planning Committee comprised of team members from important operational areas. 

“We recommend all our learners and team members follow the advice of public health officials in their jurisdiction,” it states on the AU website. 

As of March 12, AU restricted gatherings over 250 people and recommended avoiding international travel and they are encouraging virtual meetings to limit unnecessary travel. 

According to the AU website they said, “f you attend placed-based meetings, practice social distancing in those meetings (avoid shaking hands, don’t sit close).” 

AU added that they will work with students whose studies are impacted by the measures being put in place including allowing students to reschedule exams or change from an invigilator in the room to ProctorU. 

This allows invigilators to access the students’ webcam and utilize screen sharing technology to monitor activity during the exam remotely. 

“AU is committed to doing our part to help minimize the spread of the virus. As of March 13, 2020, AU is implementing new restrictions for its team members to work from home (that are able to) until further notice. AU will remain focused on maintaining services to ensure continuity for our learners,” the AU website stated. 

AU has also arranged for enhanced cleaning throughout locations, with increased attention to commonly touched surfaces in all public areas and bathrooms. 

Athabasca Senior's Drop-in Centre

Athabasca Senior's Drop-in Centre president Janice Green issued a press release March 15 stating the facility will be closed until at least April 14.

"All activities, events, and programs organized and/or co-hosted by the Athabasca & District Senior Citizens Society scheduled to run at the Athabasca Seniors Centre are cancelled for the next month," the release said. "The decision to cancel activities at the Seniors Centre was made at a special online meeting of the Board of Directors held March 12-14, 2020, following announcement that COVID-19 had been upgraded to pandemic status, and in adherence to national and provincial health guidance. An earlier decision to cancel plans for a Spring Supper had already been made at the Board’s regular meeting on March 10."

"This decision is in line with other seniors’ centre program curtailments and closures in various areas of the province. The Board of Directors will continue to monitor the emerging situation and directives from various levels of government, prior to re-opening the doors of the Centre."

Green said the group will communicate via another newsletter prior to the Easter weekend.

A running list of cancellations and closures can be found at under the COVID-19 tab. It includes the latest information on the virus and is updated regularly. 

Heather Stocking

About the Author: Heather Stocking

Heather Stocking a reporter at the Athabasca Advocate, a weekly paper in Northern Alberta. Heather covers all aspects of the news in and around Athabasca and Boyle as well as other small communities.
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