Alberta declares public health emergency, bans indoor gatherings

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EDMONTON – Elementary and high school students across Alberta are being sent home to learn and the province is introducing stricter assembly limits in hopes of curbing the spread of COVID-19. Premier Jason Kenney announced the new public health measures and declared a state of public health emergency on Tuesday as the province reported 1,115 new cases of COVID-19, its smallest one-day increase in the other since November 19.

The province entered a state of public health emergency in March, but decided in June to let the status expire when its infection rate slowed.

In a public health emergency, the provincial government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health have different powers to respond to crises.

Kenney said the measures were developed by a cabinet committee that met for eight hours on Monday and heard recommendations from Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr Deena Hinshaw.

SOCIAL MEETINGS

As of now, all indoor social gatherings – which Kenney has called “the main reason COVID-19 is winning” – are banned across the province.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people.

Weddings and funerals will be limited to 10 people. Receptions are prohibited.

Those who live alone are allowed to have two close contacts outside the home.

The premier said Alberta police will enforce the new rules and the province is looking for ways to get law enforcement officials to issue fines as well. Violations could result in a ticket of up to $ 1,000 or a fine of $ 100,000 through the court system.

“We just felt we had no option given that 40 percent of traceable cases are related to private social activity,” Kenney commented.

This rule does not apply to home services such as health care and childcare.

The Alberta Emergency Alert System will send a notification with rule details to all smartphones later this week.

An earlier directive that places of worship in communities on the Alberta Health Services Enhanced Status List limit their attendance to one-third of what is allowed under the fire code is now mandatory.

BUSINESS

Effective Friday, event venues in status enhanced areas will be closed for in-person business. This includes banquet halls, conference centers, trade shows, concert halls, community centers, and indoor playgrounds and playgrounds.

All levels of team and individual sport must have a Hinshaw exemption to continue.

Retail and service business services in enhanced status areas will be able to remain open, but must limit capacity to 25 percent or a minimum of five customers, whichever is greater. This includes grocery stores, drug stores, clothing, tech, hardware, and auto stores.

Entertainment and event activities also fall into this category: theaters, libraries, museums, galleries, bingo halls, water and amusement parks, as well as fitness, recreation and activity centers. No group fitness classes, training, or team training is allowed, although facilities may remain open to broadcast virtual classes.

Restaurants, bars, pubs and lounges can also remain open by following public health orders. Kenney said all Albertans who dined together must belong to the same household, that the tables can seat a maximum of six people, and that there should be no movement between tables. If an Albertan lives alone, he can eat outside with his loved ones. No other services such as entertainment and games are allowed in these businesses, and the previous rule requiring alcohol sales to end before 10 p.m. and businesses to close at 11 p.m. has been extended.
Casinos are not allowed to offer table games. They must follow the same rules for selling and closing alcohol.

Personal, wellness, hotel and professional services will remain open by appointment only. No walk-in is allowed.

SCHOOL

Starting November 30, all students in Grades 7 to 12 will be turning to home schooling for the remainder of 2020.

All Alberta students will begin vacation on Dec. 18 and return to school in the new year a week later, Jan. 11, to allow for a latency period, the premier said. However, the holidays are not extended – students will be homeschooled during the week leading up to January 11.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association said it supports the government’s direction.

“Our schools are as safe as our communities. Teachers have expressed concern about the growing number of COVID cases in Alberta and the impact of this increase on schools, ”ATA President Jason Schilling said in a statement.

Diploma exams in April, June and August will be optional.

WORKPLACE

The Prime Minister has also called on all workers who can work from home to do so for at least three weeks. Masks will be mandatory at all indoor workplaces in the Edmonton and Calgary medical zones, where Kenney said 83% of COVID-19 cases in Alberta are found.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have said that when used correctly, masks can play an important role in helping to limit the spread of COVID-19,” he commented.

“It’s not a quick fix – nothing is – but it’s a useful layer of protection and there are now mountains of studies to back it up.

Masks are not mandatory when employees are alone in an office or cubicle or away from others.

As of Tuesday, 318 schools in Alberta were managing an active alert or outbreak, totaling 1,135 cases.

DEC. 15 DEADLINE

The province will be watching to see if the restrictions reduce Alberta’s transmission rate to one percent by December 15.

“Absolutely, that’s the minimum measure,” Kenney said Tuesday.

“Ideally, we would like it to reach 0.8%. But if we start to move a little below 1, we know that we have indeed started to bend the curve. ”

Currently, this value is 1.3 in Edmonton and 1.1 in Calgary. Across Alberta, the reproductive value is 1.12 on Monday.

The prime minister warned that if the latest round of public health measures had not had an impact in three weeks, the government would “impose more stringent measures.”

However, the official opposition called Tuesday’s plan insufficient.

“Albertans waited a whole 12 days hoping to see some strong action, but once again this premiere let them down. This announcement is simply not enough, ”said NDP Leader Rachel Notely.

“We can’t know what Dr. Hinshaw recommended to this UCP firm, but I don’t believe, for a second, that was it.

The NDP has called for mandatory masks across Alberta and a “plan” for families who would soon have their older children at home full time.

Alberta’s active cases jumped to 13,349 and its death toll from 16 to 492 on Tuesday.

Although Tuesday’s number of new cases was the lowest in nearly two weeks, Hinshaw attributed this to the province doing fewer tests: While around 19,000 tests were done on Sunday, only 13,500 tests were completed. performed on Monday.

There are 438 Albertans hospitalized with COVID-19, 66 of whom are receiving intensive care.

Alberta’s most recent measures – which look like recent British Columbia measures – are not meant to be a “zero hunt,” Kenney commented.

He said the province would do everything in its power to avoid a wider shutdown, which would be “intolerable.”

“In much of the debate, we have forgotten the charter of rights and freedoms. Since when should governments start with an infringement of fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the Charter, rather than engage in such infringement as a last and last resort?

A complete list of Alberta’s improved public health measures is available online.

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