Alberta announces restrictions in response to increasing COVID-19 rates
By Mike Henry
The Government of Alberta declared a state of public health emergency on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, and announced new measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. The enhanced public health measures place new, stricter restrictions on businesses and social gatherings in the province.
Effective Friday, November 27, 2020, varying restrictions will apply to Alberta businesses. These restrictions apply to all areas under Enhanced Status as designated by the Government of Alberta.
Closed for in-person service
Banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, concert venues, non-approved/licensed markets, community centres, children's play places or indoor playgrounds, and all levels of sport will be closed. Exemptions may be considered for some sporting activities, though no details were provided as to the criteria by which an exemption would be evaluated.
Open with restrictions
Restaurants, bars, pubs, and lounges will remain open, but must restrict seating to six people from the same immediate household. Previous restrictions requiring liquor sales to stop at 10 pm, and establishments to close by 11 pm, will still apply.
Most retail businesses may remain open, but must limit capacity to 25% of the occupancy limit set out in the Alberta Fire Code. These businesses include grocery, liquor and cannabis, pharmacy, clothing, computer and hardware stores. Some entertainment services may remain open, subject to the 25% capacity restriction, including movie theatres, museums and galleries, libraries, casinos (slots only), indoor fitness, recreation, and sports centres, dance and yoga studios, martial arts, gymnastics and public swimming pools. No group classes except those broadcast electronically will be permitted.
Open by appointment only
Businesses offering personal services including hair salons and barbershops, wellness services including acupuncture, massage and reflexology, professional services such as lawyers, mediators, accountants and photographers, private one-on-one lessons, as well as hotels, motels and hunting and fishing lodges will be permitted to operate by appointment only.
Effective immediately, indoor social gatherings are forbidden in any setting including private homes, public spaces or workplaces. Outdoor social gatherings are limited to a maximum of ten attendees. Attendance at funerals and weddings is limited to ten, and receptions will not be permitted. Individuals who live alone may have up to two non-household social contacts.
Anyone caught in violation of these rules will be subject to fines of up to $1000 if issued by ticket for violation of a public health order. The Government of Alberta is working towards giving Peace Officers the power to grant fines.
Gatherings in places of worship will be capped at one third of the maximum capacity under the Alberta Fire Code. Masks will be required for all attendees, and physical distancing between households must be maintained.
These restrictions on social gatherings will be in place for three weeks, and re-evaluated in mid December.
Although the Government of Alberta has not implemented a province wide mandatory mask requirement, effectively immediately within the Calgary and Edmonton areas (including neighboring communities) masks are mandatory in all indoor workplaces (including office workplaces), except when proper social distancing measures or barriers can be put in place. The restriction applies to all individuals who may enter the workplace.
In the Government of Alberta's announcement of the new restrictions, Premier Kenney indicated that transmission in office environments continues to contribute to the spread of COVID-19. As such, in their publication of the new measures the Government indicated that working from home should be considered, where possible.
The province's schools will remain open, but Grade 7-12 students will be moved to at-home learning on November 30, 2020. Following the Christmas break, all students will have one week of on-line learning from January 4 through January 8, 2021 with in-person classes resuming for all students on January 11, 2021.