The Pulse: Jan. 11, 2022

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 3°C: Increasing cloudiness early in the morning. Wind up to 15 km/h. High plus 3. Wind chill minus 8 in the morning. (forecast)
  • 635: Over the weekend, AHS reported 62 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, bringing the total to 635. The province also saw six new deaths, including a young person between the ages of 10 and 19 years. (details)

Awn Kitchen founder Kaelin Whittaker

Awn Kitchen survives setbacks with community support

By Sharon Yeo

Nothing could have prepared Kaelin Whittaker for the challenges she would encounter while trying to build her business, Awn Kitchen, in the middle of a pandemic. But she's still standing, and her latest shift has been greeted with tremendous support.

"It's been a roller coaster ... I've lost sight of the why, I've lost sight of the strength and resiliency of myself, I've felt defeat, I've felt fear, and a whole slew of other emotions," she said.

"But I have also felt so much positivity, love, grace, and so much pride and happiness. The team at Awn is incredible and willing to pivot and adapt as needed, they are there to support one another and the dream and vision that is Awn, to keep dreaming and keep pushing forward, even when the days are hard."

Awn Kitchen grew from Whittaker's home-based business, originally called Ruby Apron, which offered baking and cooking classes out of her home. In June 2021, she opened a brick-and-mortar storefront in the neighbourhood of Lansdowne, fulfilling a dream to have a space that would accommodate those classes and a full-service café. She had started planning it in 2019, before COVID-19 turned everything upside-down.

"I had built a strong foundation for Awn before deciding to expand," said Whittaker. "I knew Lansdowne needed and wanted a café," she said.

When Whittaker announced the postponement of all in-person classes in December, the community was disappointed but understanding. And their response was overwhelming when she introduced Awn at Home, which offers prepared meals made with seasonal ingredients.

"We've sold out every day, the feedback has been so positive, and it's been a fun way for us to pivot," said Whittaker. "It's something we aim to continue doing once we are back to dine-in and offering in-person classes again."

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By Mack Male and Doug Johnson

  • More than 45,000 people in south Edmonton were without power last night due to an outage that began around 6:15pm. It took about three hours for EPCOR to start restoring service. The outages map listed the cause as equipment failure.
  • While some Alberta parents are glad to have their kids return to class after an extended holiday break, others feel that the province is not providing enough clarity or support to control the Omicron variant in schools. While schools have received masks and test kits, Edmonton Public Schools and the Alberta Teachers' Association warned that some kids may not have access to them until it's too late.
  • Edmonton's Winterscapes photo contest is open again, and is accepting photos of snow, ice, lights, ornaments — anything that is winter-themed and helps grow an appreciation of the cold months in the city. There are three categories available to local photographers: Winter Art, Winter Garden, and Winter Play, and the contest is open until Feb. 28.
  • The province is changing the criteria for who can get PCR tested for COVID-19 as demand was pushing AHS to its limit, according to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health. Only priority groups including healthcare workers, continuing care staff, correctional facilities, and others are now eligible for PCR testing.
  • As of today, campers will be able to book sites online any time, year-round, instead of only during a short window of time in February. Campers can book 90 days in advance of their trip for single sites, and 180 days in advance for group and comfort camping sites.
  • Albertans who have been the victim of a crime now have only 45 days to apply for a provincial program that compensates them, instead of the two years they had previously. The move drew criticism, with some arguing that it — and the new $1,000 limit the province set on reimbursements for counselling — could cause longer-term issues and costs for healthcare and social services. "This is really naïve and, quite frankly, uninformed to make a decision about what it means for a survivor to even acknowledge to themselves what happened, let alone report," Mary Jane James, CEO of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, told CBC News.
A bar chart comparing public washroom visits in 2020 and 2021

More than 90K visits to Edmonton public washrooms recorded in 2021

By Emily Rendell-Watson

Public washroom visits were up by 140% in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to an update from the City of Edmonton.

The increase from about 37,000 visits in 2020 to 90,000 in 2021 (recorded by attendants between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 of both years) can in part be attributed to more public washroom locations with attendants. But the most used washrooms — Churchill Square, Whyte Avenue, and Louise McKinney — saw significant increases between the two years, and Borden Park, which wasn't open in 2020, was also very busy last year.

The city initially launched its City-Wide Public Washroom Strategy in April 2019 with the aim to improve access, user experience, and management of existing facilities.

Public washrooms have been characterized as an essential amenity for a functioning city and a key part of downtown vibrancy. The incoming council has made it clear that this is a priority, approving funding increases from both its operating and capital budgets to push the project forward.

The latest update on the strategy indicates that the attendant model will continue at the Whyte Avenue, Borden Park, and Churchill Square washrooms this year, along with "enhanced sanitation and custodial services at park washrooms."

Trailer-style toilets will be added by the summer instead of porta-potties, using council's one-time operating budget increase of $2.26 million for the washroom pilot.

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