By Nikki Jamieson
Westwind Weekly News
Effective immediately, all social gatherings are banned and masks are mandatory as the province moves to flatten the curve.
With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing — more than 20,000 active cases in the province as of press deadline — the Alberta government is imposing stricter mandatory health measures to try and control the spread of the coronavirus to avoid the health system from being overwhelmed.
“We’re not taking any of this lightly,” said Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, during a telephone town hall on Dec. 8. “The vast majority of our communities across Alberta have more than 50 active COVID cases per 100,000 people. So thats in communities that have 97 per cent of our population in them, so that’s rural, urban. We have over 600 people in hospitals, over 100 people in ICU, and we had to make a tough decision (on Dec. 8) to bring in further health measures.”
“It’s on everybody in Alberta to continue to step up, to help get through this.”
The new expanded mandatory measures came into effect Dec. 8 for social gatherings and mandatory masking.
All indoor and outdoor social gatherings – public and private – are now prohibited. Close contacts are limited to household members only, although individuals who live alone are allowed up to two close contacts for in-person visiting, with those two people remaining the same for the duration of the restriction period. All festivals, parades, events, concerts, exhibitions, competitions, sport and performance remain prohibited.
The mandatory indoor public masking requirement is now extended provincewide, with public spaces including locations where a business or entity operates and is applicable to employees, visitors and the general public. This mask mandate applies to all indoor workplaces and facilities outside the home, although farm operations are excluded, along with rental accommodations used solely for the purposes of a private residence.
All others measures will come into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 13.
For places of worship, they will be limited to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy for in-person attendance starting Dec. 13, with virtual or online services strongly encouraged. Drive-in services, where individuals do not leave their vehicles and adhere to guidance, are allowed and are not subject to capacity restrictions. All guidelines, including masking and physical distancing, will remain in place.
Retailers and shopping malls, as of Dec. 13, will be limited to a customer capacity of 15 per cent of fire code occupancy, with a minimum of five customers permitted. Curbside pickup, delivery and online services are strongly encouraged.
As of Dec. 13, restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes will be closed to in-person service, with takeout, curbside pickup and delivery services being permitted.
Casinos, bingo halls, gaming entertainment centres, racing entertainment centres, horse tracks, raceways, bowling alleys, pool halls, legions, private clubs and recreational facilities – such as fitness centres, recreation centres, pools, spas, gyms, studios, day and overnight camps, indoor rinks and arenas – will be closed as of Dec. 13. While outdoor recreation is permitted, any facilities with indoor spaces, excluding washrooms, will be closed. Entertainment businesses and entities such as libraries, science centres, interpretive centres, museums, galleries, amusement parks and water parks will also be closed. Personal and wellness services, such as hair salons, nail salons, massage, tattoos, and piercing, will be closed.
Hotels are allowed to remain open, but they must follow restrictions, such as no spas, pools or inperson dining, with room services only.
Health services, including physiotherapy or acupuncture, social or protective services, shelters for vulnerable persons, emergency services, child care, and not-for-profit community kitchens or charitable kitchens, will remain open for in-person attendance.
Starting Dec. 13, mandatory work from home measures will be implemented unless the employer determines that work requires a physical presence in the place of work for operational effectiveness.
Entertainment businesses and entities – which include community halls and centres, indoor children’s play centres and indoor playgrounds, theatres, auditoriums, concert halls, and community theatres, nightclubs, banquet halls and conference centres, indoor and outdoor festivals, concerts with the exception of drive-in events, trade shows, and sporting events or competitions — remain closed as of Nov. 27.
“Alberta has sought to protect both lives and livelihoods from the beginning of the pandemic. The recent surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations will threaten our health-care system and the lives of many vulnerable Albertans unless further action is taken now. With the promise of a vaccine early in 2021, we can see the end of this terrible time. But all Albertans must take this more seriously than ever by staying home whenever possible, and following these new measures,” said Premier Jason Kenney.
“These mandatory measures will help us slow the spread of COVID-19. This will require individual sacrifices that are necessary to protect our province. It’s not just about one person, it’s about doing what we can to protect and save our loved ones, colleagues, neighbours, and even strangers. Following these public health measures is how we as Albertans care for and protect each other,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health.
The Alberta government has granted certain Alberta peace officers and community peace officers the temporary authority to enforce public health orders, increasing the number of officers able to levy fines by about 700. Those not following mandatory restrictions could result in fines of $1,000 per ticketed offence and up to $100,000 through the courts.
All Albertans are also encouraged to download the secure ABTraceTogether app, which is integrated with provincial contact tracing.
Adults should stay home and get tested if they have any COVID-19 symptoms, and children should refer to the daily screening checklist for instructions.
The new restrictions will be in place for a minimum of four weeks.