Masks were made mandatory in any workplace setting across Alberta as the premier introduced sweeping measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Paul Cowley/ Advocate Staff)

Masks were made mandatory in any workplace setting across Alberta as the premier introduced sweeping measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Paul Cowley/ Advocate Staff)

Kenney declares state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rise

High schools shift to online learning, businesses face new restrictions

With 16 new deaths and COVID-19 case numbers over 1,000 Tuesday, Alberta’s premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency and leveled stricter measures to try and curb the spread of the virus.

After four days of record-setting COVID-19 case numbers, cabinet ministers met late into the night Monday to discuss the new measures, based on recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. The additional measures also come in the wake of Ontario and Manitoba each enacting more stringent COVID-19 restrictions.

Kenney said Alberta’s new targeted measures placed new restrictions on social gatherings, worship services, businesses and schools will be in place for three weeks, until Dec. 15.

“These steps are not being taken lightly,” the premier said.

“I didn’t go into public service, nor did any of the people sitting around our cabinet table, in order to impose restrictions on how people live their lives. But we believe these are the minimum restrictions needed right now to safeguard our health care system, will avoiding widespread damage to people’s livelihood.”

No indoor social gatherings will be permitted across the province and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 1o people. Weddings and funerals will be limited to 10 people. Kenney said any who breaks the rules will be subject to fines up to $1,000 for ticketed violations.

Kenney also made masks mandatory in all indoor workplaces in Edmonton, Calgary and surrounding zones, where 83 per cent of the province’s cases exist.

Students in Grades 7-12 will shift to online learning on Nov. 30. On Dec. 18, all students will begin winter break. All students will return to school on Jan. 11. Diploma exams will be optional for the rest of the school year.

Sports are also on pause unless given an exemption by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

In faith venues, they will be allowed gatherings of one-third of fire-code limits and masks are required.

In businesses, there are three different categories: closed, open with restrictions and open by appointment only. Effective Friday, certain businesses in select regions will be closed, including, banquet halls, conference centres and concert venues.

Retail businesses and services can remain open but will be restricted to 25 per cent of occupancy. Indoor dining at restaurants will remain open.

“As the premier noted, the point of these measures is to interrupt and slow the spread of the virus, while still allowing businesses to work in ways that are safe throughout the province,” said Tyler Shandro, Alberta’s Health Minister.

The provincial government reported 1,115 new cases Tuesday and now has 13,166 active cases of the virus. There were 13,576 tests completed over the last 24 hours, meaning the test positivity rate is over eight per cent.

There were 16 new deaths bringing the total to 492, while 348 people are in the hospital and 66 of those are in the ICU. The Central zone now has 830 cases.

Red Deer now has 141 active cases of the virus, according to the government’s geospatial mapping on the municipality setting. Red Deer County has 49 active cases and Lacombe County has 29 active cases. Sylvan Lake has 29 active and Olds has 14 Both Mountain View and Kneehill County each have 14 cases. Ponoka County has 220 active cases and the County of Wetaskiwin has 20 active. The City of Wetaskiwin has 63 cases and Camrose has 50. Camrose County has 19 active.

Kenney added that in order for the restrictions to be eased, the rate of transmission needs to get below one.

“This pandemic is a once in a century health challenge and it has impacted every one of us in many different ways,” he said Tuesday before he announced the new measures.

“There is no one single way through this pandemic and any decision impacts the lives of our friends and neighbours.”

 

Masks were made mandatory in any workplace setting across Alberta as the premier introduced sweeping measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Paul Cowley/ Advocate Staff)

Masks were made mandatory in any workplace setting across Alberta as the premier introduced sweeping measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Paul Cowley/ Advocate Staff)