Alberta coronavirus cases jumped by 17 in the past 24 hours, and the province has ramped up public health measures to combat the spread.
Classes for all K-12 and post-secondary schools have been cancelled and all daycare centres, effectively immediately.
“I know some Albertans may wonder if these measures are truly necessary. I want to stress that they are necessary. It is crucial that we do everything possible to contain and limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
A wide range of areas were covered in the March 15 briefing. We’ll try to capture this information in the most concise way possible.
Long term care centres
New restrictions were put in place for all long-term and continuing care facilities. Effective immediately, only essential visits will be allowed at these facilities.
“Special precautions must be taken to ensure that there is not virus spread amongst these groups,” said Dr. Hinshaw.
She encouraged families to think of other ways they could support and encourage their loved ones during this time.
Places of worship
Previously, places of worship were exempt from the mass gatherings restrictions in place. Effective immediately, all places of worship are being asked to follow the same large gathering restrictions at other Alberta events.
All mass gatherings of 250 or more people should be cancelled. Any group of 50 or more with international participants, critical infrastructure staff, seniors or other high risk populations should also be cancelled.
“I encourage religious leaders to work with their faith communities to determine how they can continue to support each other, but in ways that reduce the risk of infection spreading.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said tens of thousands of Alberta snowbirds are going to be returning from abroad in the coming weeks. He said it’s important that their families still here in the province let them know of the situation here and the need for a 14-day self-isolation period upon their return.
“And that’s one of the reasons we’ll be redirecting Travel Alberta’s advertising budget to focus on snowbirds in the US and perhaps elsewhere, letting them know,” said Kenney.
They’ll also be working with the Canadian Snowbirds Association to reach Albertans abroad.
“But probably the most effective way of reaching them is through word of mouth,” said Kenney.
Any travellers returning home, ‘must be vigilant’
Premier Kenney said anyone deciding to travel outside of Canada at this time risk not being able to get back into the country due to cancelled flights.
“There is no good reason to be traveling for leisure purposes at this time,” said the premier.
“Frankly, from today onward, all non-essential travel plans should be cancelled.”
The premier reiterated that anyone coming into Alberta from abroad, should adhere to a 14-day self-isolation period and monitor for symptoms.
He also said they’re increasingly concerned with inadequate screening and information for people making international arrivals in Alberta.
“I will be raising those concerns directly with the Government of Canada,” Kenney said.
Supply chain – truckers
One reporter asked a questions about international exemptions, especially with truckers that are a part of the supply chain for grocers and other retailers of essential items.
“I think it came very quickly to the attention of public health officials that would potentially massively impair supply chains are we need those truckers bringing food supplies and groceries from south of the border to Canada,” said Premier Kenney.
Dr. Hinshaw said she’s also been in contact with transportation companies.
“I’ve spoken both with members from the airline industry and have worked with our transportation department and the industry of long-distance trucking to make sure that there are protocols in place to limit risk from those individuals working in those industries,” Kenney said.
Health budget increase
Premier Kenney also announced Sunday night that there would be a boost to the provincial health budget of $500 million.