No social gatherings allowed, says Kenney

Masha Scheele

Enhanced public health measures have been implemented across Alberta as a result of the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases.

Measures were announced on Nov. 24 by Premiere Jason Kenney, who stated that the mandatory restrictions will be in place for three weeks at which point they will be reviewed.

“I certainly did not go into public service, nor did anyone 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 healthcare system, while avoiding widespread damage to people’s livelihoods,” Kenney stated.

He noted that social gatherings are the key reason why COVID-19 continues to spread.

Indoor close contacts must be limited to people in the same household, and people who live alone can have up to the same two non-household contacts for the duration of the restriction.

Mandatory restriction across Alberta include no indoor social gatherings in any setting, a maximum of 10 people at outdoor gatherings as well as weddings and funeral services, no receptions permitted, no festivals or events, at-home learning for grades 7-12 between Nov. 30 and Jan. 11, at-home learning for grades K-6 between Dec. 18 and Jan. 11, and working from home where possible.

Diploma exams are optional for the rest of the school year and students and families can choose to write an exam or receive an exemption for the January, April, June and August 2021 exams.

“Rising cases in our workplaces and homes driven disproportionately by social gatherings means that we are seeing rising cases in schools as well. There is limited transmission within the schools but more community transmission affecting the schools and their ability to operate,” Kenney said.

While the province only made masks mandatory in the Calgary and Edmonton zones, Hinton has its own mandatory mask bylaw for all public spaces for those aged five and up.

Hinton is currently included in the enhanced area where places of worship are only allowed at ⅓ of normal attendance, as well as restricted access to some businesses and services starting Nov. 27.

Businesses and services closed include banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, auditoria and concert venues, non-approved or licensed markets, community centres, children’s play places or indoor playgrounds, and all levels of sport.

Restaurants, bars, pubs and lounges are allowed to remain open until 11 pm with a maximum of six people from the same immediate household at a table, only allowing people who live alone to meet with two non-household contacts, and not allowing other services like billiards, games, or darts.

Most retail businesses, such as grocery stores and clothing stores, may remain open with capacity limited to 25 per cent of their Alberta Fire Code occupancy. Several entertainment services have the same restrictions, including movie theatres, museums, and libraries.

Businesses normally open by appointment only will not be allowed to offer walk in services.

Violating the public health order may come at a cost of a $1,000 fine, and individuals can be prosecuted for up to $100,000 for a first offense.

“We will enforce these rules against social gatherings and those who break these rules will be subject to fines,” Kenney said.

He added that the province will look for ways to allow peace officers to fine those breaking the rules.

Measures are put in place now in order for the province to review before Christmas, and measures can be adjusted in the meantime based on the results, Kenney said.

“Just 11 days ago, I told Albertans that we were at a dangerous juncture. We resisted calls for a lockdown of our society because of the profound damage it would cause especially for the poor and vulnerable who are most affected by policies like that,” Kenney noted.

Instead, previous targeted measures focused on places where the data clearly showed COVID-19 was spreading, but the virus continues to spread and is picking up speed.

The virus continues to set records for daily confirmed cases and as of Nov. 24 there have been 492 deaths related to COVID-19 in Alberta.

Continuing care outbreaks have quadrupled since Oct. 1, putting the most vulnerable at risk.

Kenney stated that Alberta has 8,400 acute care beds, which the province is working to increase.

As of Nov. 24, 348 Albertans were hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 66 were in intensive care.

Hinton has ten confirmed active cases of COVID-19 as of Nov. 24, and Yellowhead County has 14.