Peace River has free hotel spaces for COVID-19 quarantine

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

People who test positive for COVID-19 and need to isolate away from their own home can stay in a Peace River hotel for 14 days for free and get a $625 payment at the end of their two-week isolation, courtesy of the Province of Alberta.

Premier Jason Kenney announced the expanded program, which is meant to help prevent people from spreading the coronavirus to their close household family members, during the daily COVID-19 update and press conference on Dec. 15.

The premier, chief medical officer of health, and several ministers participated in the announcement of new measures to support the areas of the province with the highest rates of covid transmission, including several city neighbourhoods.

The actual cost to taxpayers to provide the hotel rooms for up to 14 days is $160 a day per person. The Province will be offering the hotel rooms for eight weeks, and if the pilot program is successful, that could be extended.

The incentivized self-isolation program is modelled on similar assistance offered by governments in Australia, South Korea and Taiwan. It was started in the spring during the first wave of infection, but Kenney says only a “few dozen” Albertans have taken the government up on the offer of a place to stay and that likely means most people don’t know they even have the option to stay in a hotel.

So far, there are 16 hotels ready to accommodate Albertans who need to isolate. All but one of those hotels are in Calgary and Edmonton, with the final hotel in Peace River.

Despite Facebook rumours and other hotels in the town saying the Sawridge Hotel is the hotel the provincial government has been referring to, manager Robin Galloway says the Sawridge is not accepting isolation bookings under the plan.

Chateau Nova appears to be the hotel mentioned by the Province, with at least one local Peace River resident reportedly having been told to isolate there.

The hotel manager did not respond to a request for comment.

An Alberta Health Services spokesperson responded.

“To protect the privacy and confidentiality of patients who are accessing the facility to isolate, we are unable to share the name of the hotel.

“Albertans who test positive for COVID-19 or are identified as a close contact, and are unable to isolate in their residence, are asked to call 811 to determine if they qualify for an isolation hotel,” reads the response.

Other hotels are not certain why only one hotel was chosen to accept COVID patients. Connie Carifelle, manager at the Western Budget Hotel in Peace River, says, “I wondered how they decided who it was as we were never asked for a quote or anything.”

The six hotels in Calgary have 791 total spaces for people in quarantine and the nine hotels in Edmonton have a total of 1,300 spaces. The Province is hoping to add more rooms in the two major cities and in other communities including Fort McMurray and Red Deer.

The $625 financial incentive for completing two weeks of isolation is the same payment given to Albertans who have to evacuate from natural emergencies like fires and floods.

“So my view is that vulnerable people affected by the public health emergency who do the right thing by self-isolating need similar support to be safe,” Kenney says.

The Province is also launching a renewed public awareness campaign in 10 different languages to improve public knowledge of the resources available to them. The province listed a number of communities in Edmonton and Calgary it says are hardest hit by the virus and those communities will be the focus of the campaign, which will see care packages with sanitizer, masks etc. and help accessing supports delivered by new COVID Care Teams.

The Province will be reaching out to various ethnic communities through community organizations, as Kenney says many frontline workers and ethnic minorities live in multi-generational homes or don’t have the option to work from home, making them more vulnerable to viral spread.

Kenney says in addition to hotel rooms, “culturally appropriate” food is also being arranged for those in isolation.

At press time, Northern Sunrise County had the third highest number of active cases per capita in the province for two days in a row out of 142 regions. The county borders on Peace River and includes Nampa and St. Isidore.

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