COVID-19 active case numbers and hospitalizations have started to rise back up in Alberta, as they are in many other places around the world.
As people start to head back indoors, it is important that everyone in the community does their part to limit the spread to help ensure we can keep businesses open.
I recently read a column from a news publication in Florida (read here) on how to protect yourself and how to deal with the unfortunate fourth wave of COVID-19. Vaccines are the best line of defence with masking indoors and social distancing also being encouraged again.
This week, a few announcements came out with direct ties to our community safety. Starting September 1, everyone going onto campus at the University of Lethbridge, along with the University of Calgary and University of Alberta, will have to be fully vaccinated or undergo rapid testing – and masks must be worn in all public indoor areas on campus.
The Western Hockey League this week announced it has adopted a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for all roster players, officials, hockey operations staff and other team and WHL office personnel, ahead of the start of the 2021-22 WHL Regular Season on October 1. I hope to be able to attend Lethbridge Hurricanes home games this season at the Enmax Centre and will keep encouraging people to be vaccinated to ensure that can happen.
My office has been receiving concerns from the community about doctor shortages in the city. This problem is not unique to Lethbridge as I hear from other mayors encountering the same situation across the province. This will be an issue the next city council will have to discuss with our Provincial government and may consider developing a strategy to attract physicians to Lethbridge. Until then, if you are having trouble finding a doctor in Lethbridge, please contact our local MLAs.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau triggered a Federal Election for September 20. Our Council, the next Council and City of Lethbridge Administration will continue to work with our Federal Government to advocate for our city and we will continue to build positive relationships with all orders of government. We have been fortunate recently to receive Federal money for several projects, including further funding for the Lethbridge Airport.
Earlier this month, we were pleased to be awarded $583,480 from Western Economic Diversification Canada's Regional Air Transportation Initiative to support critical improvements that will enhance the customer experience at the Lethbridge Airport. Strengthening our airport has been a priority for City Council and we know this is vital to the economic development of not just the City of Lethbridge but all of southern Alberta. We are extremely grateful to Western Economic Diversification Canada for this funding and for all of the grant funding we have received to date towards this important project for our community. Read more here.
I believe that when air travel starts to return to a level of pre-pandemic normalcy, the airlines and local customers in Lethbridge and area will be impressed when they see the improvements coming to the Lethbridge Airport.
Another mode of public transportation is about to take a big step next week, as Lethbridge Transit's cityLINK is set to launch on August 25.
This project represents a total redesign of transit in Lethbridge and is designed to maximize efficiency and effectiveness by providing appropriate levels of transit service to current and potential customers. In areas where high ridership potential exists, frequency will improve and trip times will be reduced. In areas that have low ridership potential, demand response service will be introduced in order to ensure that these areas maintain access to public transportation. Residents will be able to get from the University to the downtown core faster and enjoy improved access to destinations such as the ATB Centre, Chinook Regional Hospital and the Mayor Magrath commercial area. Read more here.
The past six weeks have seen a return of many activities, gatherings and live music and theatre events throughout the city. It has been great to see people celebrating in the downtown, on the roof of the Park and Ride, at Arts in the Park and at various local businesses recently. I encourage our residents to get out and see the events going on in the city – in a safe manner, of course.
Some big congratulations to our recent Canadian Olympic athletes for their achievements, with a special note to all of our local and regional connections for representing Lethbridge and southern Alberta. Best of luck to all the Paralympics athletes set to begin their quest for the podium in Tokyo starting August 24.
As summer is sadly starting to come to an end, we can begin to look forward to a new school year right around the corner. On behalf of Lethbridge City Council, I wish a big welcome back to students, teachers and school staff of all grades and a warm welcome to Lethbridge for those in post-secondary at the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College who may be new to our community.
Please stay safe at school and throughout the community everyone.