BANFF – Charges have been laid against two people who attended a big house party on St. Patrick’s Day in violation of COVID-19 public health orders.
Staff Sergeant Mike Buxton-Carr of Banff RCMP said the two partiers were fined $1,200 each following the indoor party on Wolf Street on March 17 – and the investigation is ongoing.
“There were at least 50 people in one residence and they were pouring out of the windows and doors as the police arrived,” he said.
“They were able to determine pretty easily that it was far in excess of the people who were allowed to be there.”
The primary issue for police when arriving at the party was addressing the immediate public safety concern, which was quickly dealt with as many partiers fled.
Wanting to avoid a potential confrontation at the scene, Staff Sgt. Buxton-Carr said the RCMP have continued with follow-up investigations.
“Rather than worry about escalation, they’ve been following up with the residents, some of the guests, some of the landlords,” he said.
“This matter remains under investigation to identify others who were responsible for this indoor gathering.”
Banff RCMP has also issued four other public health violation tickets related to a separate indoor gathering that occurred on Muskrat Street on March 24.
“Our response to these gatherings includes de-escalation of the situation, dispersing persons who are gathering contrary to the public health order, identifying those responsible, and enforcing the order by issuing violation tickets,” said Staff Sgt. Buxton-Carr.
Banff’s COVID-19 case count more than tripled in just one week from six on March 22, to 23 by March 30.
Alberta Health Services has also identified the B117 variant, which was first reported in the United Kingdom, in the Banff-Lake Louise region.
Cases can spread quickly, as was seen in November 2020 when Banff-Lake Louise had just seven active cases on Nov. 8, which rapidly grew to a peak of 192 active cases by Nov. 29.
Buxton-Carr said RCMP will lay charges when there is a blatant disregard for public health orders, saying it is a public safety issue.
“It’s appropriate to enforce when we see people who are deliberately ignoring the health orders that are designed to keep them safe,” he said.
“The big fear is that if we don’t do our part to address the messaging and enforcement that we could be looking at another COVID escalation like we saw in November.”
Banff RCMP encourage the public to report violations of the public health orders by phoning the complaint line 403-762-2226.
“We just encourage people if you see them please report them in real time to the police,” Staff Sgt. Buxton-Carr said.
“It’s great that you report them after the fact to bylaw or the health agency, but it’s important that we’re able to deal with them in real time.”
Alison Gerrits, a director of emergency management for the Town of Banff, said it is important to note that COVID variants have been identified in Banff.
“They are in our community and they are far more easily spread,” she said. “It’s imperative that individuals follow the public health orders.”
As of March 30, an additional 576 new COVID-19 cases were identified province-wide, bringing the total active case count in Alberta to 7,975.There were 301 people in hospital due to the virus, including 58 in intensive care.