No shutdowns, but new COVID measures start today

Vaccination plays a role

Pearl Lorentzen

Lakeside Leader

With the increased number of COVID-19 cases in Alberta, on Sept. 15 the provincial government announced new restrictions. No businesses were ordered to close. Some restrictions started Sept. 16 and others on Sept. 20. 

Masks and social distancing are required in all indoor public spaces – including schools. Most indoor spaces (incl. places of worship, stores, libraries, movie theatres, gyms etc.) are limited to one-third of fire code capacity.

Indoor physical activities are allowed with three metre physical distancing (for adults) and two metres for youth. Restaurants can offer take-out, drive-thru or patios and alcohol sales must end at 10 p.m. Also, people are required to work from home unless their physical presence is required.

Businesses can opt in to the Restrictions Exemption Program. 

The news release says, “Starting Sept. 20, businesses or event organizers who choose to implement a program checking patrons for government-issued proof of vaccination or a recent (done in the previous 72 hours) negative privately purchased COVID-19 test will be able to have an exemption to restrictions. If a business or service chooses not to require proof of vaccination, they will be required to adhere to the new health measures.”

Starting Sept. 19, Albertans can print or carry an electronic version of a card-sized COVID-19 vaccination record from MyHealth Records, says a government of Alberta news release. 

Also, vaccination plays a role in some of the restrictions. For example, private social gatherings. 

The news release says, “Indoor private gatherings for vaccine-eligible, fully vaccinated individuals are limited to a single household plus one other household to a maximum of 10 people, with no restrictions on children under the age of 12.

“Attendance at any indoor private social gathering is not permitted for vaccine-eligible individuals who are unvaccinated.

“Outdoor private social gatherings are permitted to a maximum of 200 people, with two-metre physical distancing maintained at all times.”

Full list of new province-wide public health orders from the news release. The first section is in effect as of today – Sept. 16. The second section starts on Sept. 20.

The following measures will take effect on Sept. 16:

Workplaces:

  • Mandatory work-from-home measures are in place unless the employer has determined a physical presence is required for operational effectiveness.

Private social gatherings:

  • Indoor private gatherings for vaccine-eligible, fully vaccinated individuals are limited to a single household plus one other household to a maximum of 10 people, with no restrictions on children under the age of 12.
  • Attendance at any indoor private social gathering is not permitted for vaccine-eligible individuals who are unvaccinated.
  • Outdoor private social gatherings are permitted to a maximum of 200 people, with two-metre physical distancing maintained at all times.

Places of worship:

Places of worship must limit attendance to one-third fire code capacity.

  • Face masks will be mandatory and there must be two-metre physical distancing between households or two close contacts for those living alone.
  • Outdoor events and facilities with no indoor portion (excluding washrooms):
  • No attendance restrictions, however two-metre physical distancing must be in place.

Schools (K-12):

  • Mandatory masking for students in grades 4 and up, plus staff and teachers in all grades. Schools that can implement an alternate COVID safety plan can be exempted from mandatory masking.
  • Elementary schools are to implement class cohorting.
  • For physical activities in schools:
    • Youth aged 18 and under are not required to mask or maintain two-metre distance when engaged in physical activity.
    • There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.
  • Indoor sports/performance/recreation/special interests are permitted with requirements for two-metre physical distancing, where possible.

Children’s activities:

  • Children’s day camps must have two-metre physical distancing between participants and masking indoors.                                                                              
  • Children’s overnight camps must follow cohort models.

Children’s sport/performance/recreation (extracurricular sports, performance, recreation and special interest):

  • Indoor activities are permitted, with requirements for two-metre physical distancing and masking where possible, and symptom screening for participants.
  • Youth aged 18 and under are not required to mask or maintain physical distancing during a physical activity, such as a team sport.
  • Spectator attendance is limited to one-third fire code capacity. Attendees must be masked and ensure physical distancing between different households or an individual who lives alone and their two close contacts.
  • There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.

The following measures will take effect on Sept. 20:

Indoor activities:

  • No indoor group classes or activities are permitted.
  • One-on-one training or individual workouts are permitted but three-metre physical distancing is required.
  • No contact between players; indoor competitions are paused except where vaccine exemptions have been granted.
    • These facilities and programs are eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program. Specific exemptions may also be granted on a case-by-case basis.
  • There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.

Restaurants:

  • Outdoor dining only with a maximum of six individuals per table (one household or two close contacts for those living alone).
  • Liquor sales and consumption restrictions (10 p.m. sales and 11 p.m. consumption) apply.
  • Restaurants are eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program.

Weddings and funerals:

  • All indoor ceremonies and services are limited to 50 attendees or 50 per cent fire code capacity, whichever is less.
  • No indoor receptions are permitted.
    • The hosting facility would be eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program.
  • All outdoor ceremonies and services for weddings and funerals must be limited to 200 attendees. Outdoor receptions are required to follow liquor sales and consumption restrictions (i.e., sales end at 10 p.m. and consumption ends by 11 p.m.).
    • The hosting facility would be eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program.

Retail, entertainment and recreation facilities (includes any indoor venues, libraries, conferences, rental spaces, concerts, nightclubs, casinos and similar):

  • Attendance is limited to one-third fire code capacity and attendees are only permitted to attend with their household or two close contacts for those living alone. Attendees must be masked and have two-metre physical distancing between households.
    • These facilities are eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program.
  • Adult (over 18 years old) sport, fitness, performance, and recreation:

Restrictions Exemption Program

  • Starting Sept. 20, vaccine-eligible individuals will be required to provide government-issued proof of immunization or a negative privately paid COVID-19 test from within the previous 72 hours to access a variety of participating social, recreational and discretionary events and businesses throughout the province.
  • To enter certain spaces that are participating in the program, including restaurants, bars and indoor organized events, people aged 12 and older will be required to show their proof of vaccination or a negative recent test result.
  • Businesses that implement the Restrictions Exemption Program would operate as usual, provided they are serving only people who have proof of immunization or who have a recent privately paid negative test, as per the requirements in place. This means they could immediately and without restriction serve any individual eligible for vaccination who:
    • Has proof of double vaccination (note that for a transitional period between Sept. 20 and Oct. 25, proof of a single dose would be considered acceptable as long as the dose was given two weeks or more before the time of service).
    • Has documentation of a medical exemption.
    • Has proof of a recent (within the previous 72 hours) negative COVID-19 test (either PCR or Rapid Test). The test may not be from Alberta Health Services or Alberta Precision Laboratories.
  • Those under age 12 would not need to provide proof of immunization or a negative test to enter a participating business.
  • This program would not apply to businesses or entities that need to be accessed for daily living.

Get fully vaccinated

More than 79.5 per cent of eligible Albertans are now protected with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 71.4 per cent are fully vaccinated. Vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of severe outcomes and the risk of infection.

Vaccines are the most powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19. Vaccine appointments are widely available through AHS or participating pharmacies and physician clinics. Book yours at alberta.ca/vaccine. First doses are also available at select walk-in clinic locations. Two doses provide maximum effectiveness and long-lasting protection.

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