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Alberta

Calgary Meals on Wheels Community Demand Grows 30% amid COVID-19

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Local non-profit organization Calgary Meals on Wheels will celebrate 56 years of providing nutritious, accessible meals to Calgarians this November after a year of unprecedented demand and growth. 

Calgary Meals on Wheels originated in 1965 as the Calgary Church Women’s Community Care organization, which launched with the goal of providing meals to senior citizens who had been released from hospital and required additional support.  The organization was renamed Calgary Meals on Wheels in 1975, and has since expanded enormously within Calgary, extending its customer base to serve any and all Calgarians in need, regardless of circumstance. 

According to Calgary Meals on Wheels, “Whether it’s navigating life with a new baby, an unexpected or chronic illness, living with a disability, the loss of a loved one, divorce, or simply the natural effects of aging, we’re here to provide the comfort of healthy, delicious meals.” 

“We want people to feel comfortable coming to us, no matter what challenges they face.” Says Robyn Weatherly, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Calgary Meals on Wheels. 

The non-profit is now located in the Great Plains Industrial Park, having moved a number of times over the years to accommodate the growing demand across Calgary. Their current facility features a custom built, 15,000 square foot production area that allowed them to produce more than 3,000 meals per day in 2019. 

Like so many others, the organization was struck hard by COVID-19 in 2020, and was forced to pivot quickly to ensure no meals went undelivered. “COVID challenged literally every operational procedure we have,” says Stephanie Ralph, Philanthropy and Communications Manager for Calgary Meals on Wheels, “but we have been able to adapt. We did not miss a single day of service.”
According to Ralph, the impacts of COVID-19 led to a 30% increase in demand from 2019 to 2020 as more Calgarians remained at home. As a result, the organization served close to 800,000 meals last year.

It is the ongoing and incredible support they receive from the community and their volunteers that makes it possible, according to the team. “It just couldn’t be done without the community,” says Ralph, “at one point, we actually had a waiting list for volunteers. Our oldest was in her 90’s, and she just retired this year, after 50 years of volunteering with us.” 

In addition to supporting individuals, Calgary Meals on Wheels also partners with a number of organizations to cater to community groups and students in need through initiatives like their Hot Soup Program and Going Home Program. A major challenge the organization faced in 2020 was ensuring community members and students still had reliable access to food during the closures that kept everyone at home. In partnership with The Calgary Food Bank, South Centre Mall, Calgary Co-Op and The Genesis Centre, Calgary Meals on Wheels was able to effectively redirect non-perishable food items to those still in need throughout the duration of the lockdown measures that forced schools and community centres to close. 

As we head into 2021, Calgary Meals on Wheels remains committed to serving Calgarians and providing support for any member of the community who needs it, regardless of circumstance. To learn more about Calgary Meals on Wheels or how you can support this organization, visit https://www.mealsonwheels.com

 

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

Alberta

British Columbia won't take COVID-19 patients from Alberta: Dix

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VICTORIA — British Columbia’s health minister says the province won’t be taking COVID-19 patients from Alberta due to current demands on its own health-care system.

Adrian Dix says the B.C. Health Ministry told its Alberta counterpart Thursday that the province will help in other ways if it can and may be able to take patients in the future.

Alberta is facing a COVID-19 crisis that is threatening to collapse its health system, with 269 patients in an intensive care system set up for 173.

British Columbia reported 706 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday along with four new deaths linked to the illness, bringing the death toll to 1,877.

The ministry says in a statement there were 5,844 active infections across the province with 291 people in hospital, including 134 in intensive care.

It says close to 79 per cent of eligible B.C. residents aged 12 and up have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 86.3 per cent have received at least one shot.

“We are in a global pandemic, and our thoughts are with Albertans as they respond to COVID-19 in their province,” Dix says in a statement.

“We salute Alberta’s health-care workers, and all health-care workers who are working tirelessly to care for patients and protect people and communities in the face of great challenge.”

About 30 per cent of active cases in B.C. are located in the Fraser Health region, followed by nearly 26 per cent in Interior Health, 18 per cent in Vancouver Coastal Health, close to 15 per cent in the north and 11 per cent in Island Health.

There were 23 active outbreaks in health-care settings, including three hospitals.

The Health Ministry says people who have not received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made up 81.5 per cent of hospitalizations due to the illness in the first two weeks of September, while partially vaccinated people represented 4.9 per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Alberta business groups want more clarity around new COVID-19 restrictions

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Alberta businessgroups say a new program the province has launched to fight COVID-19 has been short on details while giving business owners little notice to make dramatic changes to their operations.

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Federation of Independent Business said Thursday that their members have uncovered plenty of confusion as they scramble to make sense of the restriction exemption program Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced Wednesday.

“Yesterday’s announcement prompted more questions than answers for our business community,” said Deborah Yedlin, the chamber’s president and chief executive, in a statement.

“Answers and clarity are needed urgently.”

The program Yedlin was referring to is meant to force people in Alberta to show proof of vaccination to enter non-essential businesses, including select stores, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, concerts and libraries as of Sept. 20.

Businesses can opt out of the program but must operate at reduced capacity and with distancing rules or restrictions including no more than six people at a table in a restaurant.

Just after the program was announced, Annie Dormuth, the CFIB’s provincial affairs director for Alberta, was already hearing from owners confused about if they will have to apply to use the program or to opt out of it.

Others were concerned the government didn’t offer guidance or training to staff around how to check if vaccination proof is fraudulent or deal with unruly patrons who disagree with the measures. 

Some even lamented a lack of time to reorient their businesses and retrain staff for the new policies because the program has more exemptions than initiatives in other provinces and was announced roughly four days before it will go into effect.

“In the province of B.C., they were given a week and they were given support in the form of posters and guidance documents and here, we are three-and-a-half days away from this now and there’s not a whole lot of guidance being provided to business owners right now,” said Dormuth.

The lack of details is the latest challenge for small business owners who have spent much of the pandemic dealing with lower sales and fewer patrons.

CFIB estimates that small businesses in Canada now have debt totalling $139 billion due to COVID-19, a slight increase from the estimated $135 billion in February of this year. 

Three quarters of small businesses that took on debt believe it will take more than a year to repay. In the hospitality sector alone, 87 per cent believe it will take longer than two years to deal with their debts.

As business owners have struggled to deal with those debts, a wave of new COVID-19 cases has overwhelmed hospitals.

Seeing droves of unvaccinated patients, health-care workers intensified their calls for more stringent safety measures amid polls showing support for vaccination passports, but Kenney refused to heed their advice until this week.

“Jason Kenney has demonstrated himself to be a skilled contortionist, bending himself virtually into a pretzel in order to appease a small fringe but vocal group of individuals who are opposed to vaccination,” University of Alberta assistant professor of infectious diseases, Dr. Ilan Schwartz, said at a Wednesday press conference held by Protect Our Province.

The organization comprised of health-care workers has long urged the government to take the pandemic and the fourth wave more seriously by retaining basic measures like isolation for people who test positive for COVID-19.

Despite Kenney finally edging toward more measures, the group remains disappointed with his new program and its lack of clarity, and fears it will do little to quell the virus.

Dr. Schwatz said, “We’re left with a hodgepodge of measures that are confusing, and consequently, they’re likely ineffectual.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2021.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

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