As the number of COVID-19 cases in Alberta continues to rise, Premier Jason Kenney announced new immediate mandatory measures on Tuesday to help slow the spread.
With over 14,000 active cases of the virus in the province, Kenney declared a state of public health emergency. The premier emphasized the impact of COVID-19 on all Albertans, but especially on those that require continuing care.
“Continuing care outbreaks have quadrupled since Oct. 1, and they are putting the lives of our most vulnerable, our seniors, at risk.”
Kenney said that they are trying to increase hospital capacity, but warned Albertans that the rise of hospitalizations threatens the ability to deliver other needed health services.
“As we increase that capacity it comes at a real cost, a cost to people’s health, and I fear, a cost to peoples lives.”
As such, Kenney announced the much-anticipated new mandatory restrictions.
These include, but are not limited to:
- No social gatherings in any setting. Outdoor gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 10 people.
- Mandatory capping of attendance to one-third capacity on gathering within places of worship.
- Retail services restricted to 25 per cent occupancy limits.
- On Nov. 30, all students in grades seven to 12 will end in-person schooling and move to an online format, until Jan. 11, 2021.
- Mandatory masks must be worn in all indoor workspaces in Calgary, Edmonton and the surrounding areas.
For the complete list of guidelines, visit: https://www.alberta.ca/enhanced-public-health-measures.aspx
What it means now
The mandatory restriction against social gatherings is an important aspect of fighting the spread of COVID-19, Kenney said that social gatherings are the largest source of transmission.
“Many people may think that a family dinner or get-together with friends is no big deal,” he said, but, “it is a key reason why COVID-19 is winning.”
Previously, it was only recommended that places of worship cap attendance at one-third capacity, now, capping attendance is a mandatory requirement.
“Although the vast majority of faith communities have carefully followed our guidelines,” Kenney said, “a handful have flagrantly violated these parameters causing outbreaks.”
Kenney said he realizes the impact that the new occupancy limit of 25 per cent in retail places will have on businesses and encouraged Albertans to support one another by shopping locally.
On Nov. 30, 2020, students Grades 7 to 12 will move to online classes until the end of classes on Dec. 18th. Kenney hopes the temporary move to online schooling will help decrease community transmission.
“Teenagers are more likely to transmit the virus than younger children. A longer period away from the school for these older students will help to reduce broader community transmission.”
Kenney explained that making the decision to keep students under grade seven in school will allow parents to continue working.
Students will also be given a longer winter break with the early end of classes on Dec. 18th, and the return to in-person classes on Jan. 11, 2021.
Additionally, Kenney announced the requirement of wearing masks in all indoor work settings in Calgary, Edmonton and the surrounding areas, encouraging workers and employers to work from home whenever possible. But he did not introduce a province-wide mask ban, which the opposition has demanded.
Kenney warns Albertans to follow guidelines
Some critics have said the premier should have taken more restrictive measures but Kenney spoke to people who believe they go to far.
“These measures are tough, but they are necessary. They are needed to protect our healthcare system from being overwhelmed,” he said.
With the concept of a vaccine in view, Kenney said, “the end of this terrible time is in sight.”
But he also left Albertans with a warning for the future.
“If these measures do not have meaningful impact, and that depends on how each of us respond, we will be forced to take even more drastic measures to protect the healthcare system later in December.”