Province mandates ban on indoor social gatherings, sets new rules for businesses, schools in COVID fight

The Province of Alberta has declared a state of public health emergency, imposing mandatory restrictions across aspects of public and private life aimed at stopping the damage caused by COVID-19. 

“The virus continues to spread,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. “Its spread is picking up speed. We have all observed that Alberta has set daily records for new COVID-19 cases and more lives lost.” 

Kenney called the restrictions the minimum needed right now to safeguard the health care system while avoiding widespread damage to people’s livelihoods.

This is what Edmontonians and Albertans need to know. 

Social gatherings

“Social gatherings are the biggest problem,” said Kenney. 

Effectively immediately, no indoor social gatherings will be permitted in any setting and outdoor social gatherings limited to a maximum of 10 people. 

Weddings and funerals are limited to 10 attendees. Receptions are not permitted. 

“We will enforce these rules against indoor social gatherings, and those who break these rules will be subject to fines,” said Kenney, adding the Province will look at ways to allow peace officers to also enforce the rules.  

A smartphone emergency alert will go out later this week to remind Albertans of the limits. 

Business and services

As of Friday, there are temporary restrictions on the number of people coming into contact with each other at businesses and services. 

“We are temporarily closing certain businesses for in-person service in select regions,” said Kenney. “This includes the closure of banquet halls, conference centres and concert venues.”

Also impacted, said the Premier, are all levels of sport, though leagues may apply for exemptions to the Chief Medical Officer of Health if they have well-developed COVID safety plans. 

Retail businesses and services may remain open but will be restricted to 25 percent of occupancy limits. 

In-person dining at restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes can continue, but must comply with guidelines. Those dining out must be in the same household. 

Visits to hair salons, personal wellness services, hotels and professional services are by appointment only. 

Places of worship

It is now a rule and not just a recommendation that attendance be capped at ⅓ of fire code limits. Masks are now mandatory. 

Restrictions on social gatherings, business and places of worship will be re-evaluated in mid-December. 

Schools

On November 30, all students in grades 7 through 12 will end in-person schooling for the balance of 2020, and on December 18 all students will begin winter breaks. 

In-person learning for all students will resume January 11, 2020, one week later than typical.

“There is very limited transmission within the schools but more community transmission affecting the schools,” said Kenney. 

Childcare and daycare operators are not affected by today’s announcement. 

Masks

Effective immediately, masks are mandatory for all indoor workplaces in Edmonton, Calgary and surrounding areas. 

“They’re not a silver bullet, nothing is, but they are a useful layer of protection,” said Kenney. “There are now mountains of studies to confirm that.” 

Work from home, if possible

“The hard fact is this: transmission at offices continues to be a major reason for spread,” Kenney said. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health, November 24, 2020.

Deadly even for younger adults

Dr. Deena Hinshaw also spoke at the news conference. 

Hinshaw said there were 1,115 new cases of COVID-19 identified in the last day. There are now 348 people in hospital with COVID, including 66 in intensive care.

In the last two weeks, 103 people have died due to COVID, including 62 in continuing care and 29 in the community. 

“Of the community-acquired cases, 14 were under the age of 70,” said Hinshaw, who is the Chief Medical Officer of Health. “This highlights that this infection can be deadly even for younger adults and underscores the importance of the measures announced today.” 

There are now 13,349 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. There are 6,128 active cases in the Edmonton zone. Three months ago, there were 631 active cases in Edmonton.

Source: Alberta Health

City of Edmonton response

“I empathize with Edmontonians who will, because of these additional restrictions, be required to make even more adjustments at a time when everyone’s lives have already been significantly disrupted,” said Mayor Don Iveson. 

“This will be difficult, but it is critical that we do our part to keep our families and communities safe. I thank Edmontonians in advance for adhering to these new public health measures. Your  efforts will make a significant difference in helping to stop the spread.”

The City is evaluating the Province’s new restrictions to determine exactly how they will affect programs and services. 

Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post is a screenshot of Premier Jason Kenney at a news conference in Edmonton on November 24, 2020.