For many Edmontonians, this weekend marks the anniversary of when everything changed.
"This past year will likely be the toughest many of us have experienced: Edmontonians have missed key life events, been separated from our friends and family, lost livelihoods, and suffered deaths," said Mayor Don Iveson in a statement on March 11, 2021.
The first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Alberta was announced on March 5, 2020, with the first case in the Edmonton zone following the next day. But it was a series of events the following week that demarcated the "before times" and the "after times".
Reacting to the news, Iveson announced that an emergency city council meeting had been scheduled for March 13, 2020. “We need to act with caution but there is no need to panic. This is a serious health issue, and each of us can do our part to help limit the spread,” he said. At the meeting, city council suspended all meetings until the end of March, and announced enhanced cleaning protocols for transit and recreation centres. Closures followed shortly thereafter.
The Edmonton Oilers were scheduled to play the New York Islanders at Rogers Place that night, but the game never happened because the NHL had paused the 2019-2020 season. The Oilers were in second place in the Pacific division at the time — they would play just five more games in 2020.
Schools and daycares throughout Alberta were closed starting Monday, March 15, 2020 and two days later, the province declared a public health emergency. Edmonton declared its first-ever state of local emergency on March 20, 2020.
Alberta's first confirmed COVID-19 related death was announced on March 19, 2020. A man in his 60s in the Edmonton zone died after being admitted to intensive care a week earlier. As of March 10, 2021, the province had confirmed 1,928 deaths related to COVID-19 across Alberta, including 980 in the Edmonton zone.
Nearly nine months after that first confirmed death, a respiratory therapist at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton was among the first Albertans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. More than 308,000 doses have now been administered in the province, with more than 91,000 Albertans fully vaccinated with two doses.
"As we weather what we all hope are the last months of this pandemic, I have no doubt Edmontonians will continue to manifest the strength, heroism and community spirit that has seen us through thus far," Iveson said, reflecting on the anniversary. "I thank Edmontonians for the sacrifices they've made and continue to make — to keep their loved ones and our community safe. This could have been a lot worse without our collective sacrifices."
Taproot has been documenting the milestones and other significant events throughout the pandemic on our COVID-19 in Edmonton timeline.