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A pedestrian wearing a mask walks down the empty streets of downtown Edmonton on March 22, 2020.

The Canadian Press

British Columbia and Alberta racked up hundreds of new coronavirus infections over the weekend, a surge among young adults that set a new pandemic record in B.C. and has made Edmonton a national hot spot for COVID-19.

B.C., in an effort to stamp out community spread, on Monday said it is examining the legal tools it has to crack down on people partying on private property, a break from the government’s light-handed approach. It counted 236 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing active cases to 743, a new high for the Western province. Alberta added 359 new cases on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 1,132 active cases. The Edmonton region counted 593 active cases as of Sunday, with the number of cases in the capital surpassing those in Montreal by a factor of four, when adjusted for population.

As the number of new cases in Ontario and Quebec, the two hardest-hit provinces in the country, hold steady, the surges among young adults in the West have prompted officials to beg people under 40 to stick to the public-health guidelines. But COVID-19 statistics show they are resisting the recommendations.

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How many coronavirus cases are there in Canada?

B.C. looks to fight surges of COVID-19 in younger people

“Young people are getting out more,” Donna Wilson, a nursing professor at the University of Alberta, said. “Young adults tend to have confidence that they have the health so even if they catch it, it won’t be serious.”

In British Columbia, Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters on Monday that while it can be maddening to see beaches and sidewalks of Vancouver’s Granville Strip nightlife area very crowded as they were this past weekend, smaller groups partying indoors pose a much greater public-health risk.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province will announce stricter penalties this week for those who flout public-health rules as COVID-19 cases climb in the region. The Canadian Press

Half of the Vancouver area’s eight public spaces linked to outbreaks currently listed by the local health authority happened at high-end lounges and nightclubs. Three of those, Pierre’s Champagne Lounge, West Oak and the IVY Lounge in Trump International Hotel and Tower have been ordered closed, Mr. Dix said.

The province has already put in new rules limiting guests at Airbnb and other short-term rentals, but is having a harder time stopping people from welcoming groups of friends into their homes at night, Mr. Dix said.

"The places where there's greatest danger is private parties where alcohol is involved and it's inside," he said.

The provincial government has been reticent to crack down on indoor events given the importance of respecting a person’s privacy in their own home, which Mr. Dix said “dates back to the Magna Carta.” But these parties are now a driving force in new infections and the Solicitor-General is studying new ways to enforce physical distancing inside private properties, Mr. Dix said.

“Don’t hold private parties,” he said. “Twenty to 40 may be seen as young ... but it’s not young, and the people I’ve met over this weekend understand that and understand their obligation to one another, and to their parents and to their grandparents.”

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Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, last week said her province has not yet determined what is driving the wave of new cases in Edmonton, save for exposure at home. People under the age of 40 accounted for 77 per cent of cases in northeast Edmonton and the median age for infected Edmontonians is 30, she said in her update last Wednesday.

“We have seen in Edmonton, many of our recent cases, have been spread within households,” she said last week. The Edmonton zone added 407 new cases between Aug. 10 and Aug. 16.

There are roughly 52 active cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 in the city of Edmonton, according to Alberta’s data. By way of comparison, the rate of cases on the Island of Montreal clocked in at 13 per 100,000 last week.

With a report from André Picard in Montreal

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

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