New COVID-19 public health measures are in place as Alberta tries to put the lid on stubbornly high coronavirus case counts.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement Thursday at the province’s COVID-19 daily briefing. In that briefing, he announced another 860 cases in the past 24 hours. There were also an additional 10 deaths, bringing the provincial total to 393.
He also said that he’d been in close contact with a person that has COVID-19. The Premier said that he’s self isolating until Nov. 23 and is awaiting test results.
Premier Kenney said taking these new measures seriously now prevents more stringent public health restrictions later.
“This two week push is, I believe, our last chance to avoid more restrictive measures that I, and most Albertans, desperately want to avoid,” Premier Kenney said.
“If we focus our efforts for the next two weeks, and embrace these common sense measures, we can record reduce the spread and protect our hospital system.”
Additional COVID-19 info:
– 43,000 close contacts reached from Nov. 6 to 9.
– Outbreaks in 307 schools (13%)
– ICU capacity sits at 73%
Breakdown on new COVID-19 restrictions
Beginning Friday, indoor team sports, group performance cohorts and group fitness in urban centres and their surrounding areas are suspended. This includes singing, theatre and dancing groups. They will be suspended until Nov. 27.
Also starting tomorrow, restaurants, bars, lounges and pubs in areas that are in the enhanced status (50 cases per 100,000), must stop liquor sales at 10 p.m. and shut down by 11 p.m. The premier said that extending liquor hours poses a risk for increased spread.
Premier Kenney said they’ve logged increasing violations in these locations, warranting increased measures.
“It’s these growing number of violations that have created the concern and caused today’s restrictions,” he said.
There is also a 50-person limit to weddings and funerals in enhanced areas. Similarly, faith organizations are being asked to limit capacity to 1/3. Finally, businesses are being asked to reduce the number of people in office.
“It’s almost certain that we have not yet seen the peak of the current increase,” he said
Premier Kenney said that the increase in cases is pushing the Alberta health system to a breaking point. He said it’s undermining the province’s ability to deliver non-urgent health care.
More than 430 doctors and three of the province’s health unions have pushed for tightening of public health restrictions amid the mounting number of cases.
The doctors suggested further direction on work-from-home, limiting contacts to members of one’s household and restrictions on sports and other group recreation.
There have been 600 or more cases for more than a week.
Consider your options, said Mayor Nenshi
Last week, Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said Calgarians need to go back and reconsider what’s optional for them.
“Should you go back to working from home. Can you avoid being out in public more? Can you do take home delivery and curbside pickup from your local store,” Mayor Nenshi asked.
“These are the things that we really have to be working on to keep the numbers down.”
Nenshi said that even in his own close cohort, they recently had a Sunday dinner where everyone kept six feet apart. They ate dinner in different spots.
“I think these are the things that we really need to be thoughtful about in our own lives,” he said.
In Thursday’s briefing, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said that Albertans need to take these steps just for the interim.
“We want to encourage all Albertans to go above and beyond look at these measures and embrace them for two weeks,” she said.
“Because if we can put a dedicated effort into reducing our close contacts, to distancing, to masking, if we can do all of those things together, that’s the opportunity to have these measures make a difference.”
Impact on Alberta health system
There are 225 people in Alberta hospitals, including 51 in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), said Dr. Hinshaw.
She said the province has crossed its five per cent threshold of daily growth in hospital numbers in all rural areas combined over two weeks. Today, they sit at seven per cent.
“As the premier said, the rising hospitalizations and ICU admissions are threatening our ability to deliver health services and support Albertans overall health and well being,” she said.
“We must reduce the growth of COVID-19 and we must do it soon.”
Alberta’s Official Opposition leader Rachel Notley responded Thursday to the new measures.