Black Diamond and Turner Valley area currently have the highest rate of COVID per capita in the Foothills, twice the rate in Okotoks and triple the numbers in High River.
Government of Alberta statistics show Black Diamond, Turner Valley and West Foothills County currently have 58 active cases, for a per capita rate of 661 per 100,000 people. That is up from 339 per 100,000 at the beginning of the month.
There are currently 58 cases of COVID between the two towns, which have a combined population of just over 5,000 people, and the surrounding rural areas south to Crowsnest Pass and east to High River.
Turner Valley Coun. Lana Hamilton said the differences in the per capita rates between High Country and surrounding towns was surprising.
“The shocking part to me was that High River had a rate of 124 per 100,000 whereas Turner Valley and Black Diamond were sitting at 399 (per 100,000 people),” she said at council's Sept. 7 meeting.
As well, vaccination rates in Black Diamond and Turner Valley are at 52.9 per cent for two doses, lower than the Alberta average of 70.9 per cent.
According to the AHS website, there is not a COVID outbreak at the Black Diamond Hospital.
Last week Turner Valley council voted to meet online indefinitely in light of the growing number of cases.
Hamilton said at the beginning of the pandemic she felt that council should be meeting in person but has since changed her mind.
“This September is very different,” Hamilton said in an interview. “There is not contact tracing. There is not the isolation requirement so because the provincial mandates aren’t there that people need to be more diligent and more aware of their health.”
Coun. John Waring said if COVID spread amongst councillors and staff at a council meeting, it would leave a large gap in running the Town.
“A lot of key people are together in this room,” Waring said. “if one of the nine of us was to be found positive, that would be nine people disappeared from the operation for two weeks. That is a big risk.”
The council meetings are livestreamed from the Town’s website and are later posted to their YouTube channel.
Council also requested that other meetings, such as committee meetings, will also be held online.
In Black Diamond council is being held at the Griffiths Senior Centre but are now closed to the public. Residents can watch the meetings online by following the links from the Town’s website. Legislative services manager Verna Staples said it will be up to individual councillors if they want to attend the meetings in person or online.
“We are putting our meetings back online as well,” said Staples. “They never came off, but we are closing the door to the public. They need to participate online now.”
Both town municipal offices have all their staff working on site, but are requiring them to wear masks.