Alberta COVID-19 health restrictions rolled out as coronavirus cases mount

Tougher measures had been expected as provincial COVID-19 cases remain highest in Canada

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, with Premier Jason Kenny in the background, at a press conference earlier this year. ALBERTA GOVERNMENT FLICKR

Amid skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in Alberta, the province has announced new public health measures to help prevent the ongoing spread.

In addition, Premier Jason Kenney announced a new public health state of emergency for Alberta.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw has said in recent days that the spike in cases has outstripped their ability to contact trace. The number of patients in Intensive Care Units has also jumped, with 62 in ICU and 328 in hospital. The province reported 1,549 cases Monday.

On Tuesday, it was 1,115 cases. Dr. Hinshaw said this was due to fewer tests. Positivity rate rose to eight per cent.

“This is like a snowball rolling down a hill, growing bigger and faster, and it will continue unless we implement strong measures to stop (it). We must take action,” Dr. Hinshaw said during Monday’s briefing.

“Waiting any longer will impact our ability to care for Albertans in the weeks and months ahead.”

Alberta also had the highest number of active COVID-19 cases as of Monday, with 13,166. Ontario was next at 12,917.

New public health restrictions

Premier Kenney said that they held an eight-hour meeting to discuss the new proposals. They wanted to balance the broader health and livelihood concerns.

The following public health measures were announced Tuesday.

  • Masks will be mandatory in indoor workplaces in Calgary and Edmonton and surrounding areas. This includes any location where employees are present, and applies to visitors, including delivery personnel, and employees or contractors.
  • Students K to 6 will continue in-school learning but will begin winter break Dec. 18 and return to classes Jan. 11. In-home learning will be done starting the week of Jan. 4.
  • Students Grades 7 to 12 will begin online learning Nov. 30, end Dec. 18 and return to in-person classes on Jan. 11. In-home learning will be done the week of Jan. 4 to Jan. 8.
  • Restaurant rules will continue in enhanced areas (Edmonton / Calgary or others with 50 cases per 100K) – NEW: Dining in restaurants/bars, etc. can only be done with members of one’s household, in enhanced areas.
  • No indoor social gatherings (including workplaces); outdoor social gatherings are allowed, with a maximum of 10 persons.
  • Funerals and weddings – Max 10 people.
  • Faith Services: 1/3 of capacity, mandatory masking
  • All customer facing businesses will be limited to 25 per cent of fire occupancy limits.

“This pandemic is a once in a century public health challenge, and it has impacted every one of us in many different ways,” said Premier Kenney.

There’s a lot of nuance in the new rules. Here’s Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro with more details (9 mins).

More details are available at the province’s website.

Enforcement issues in cities

Previously, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi had said that Calgary had little role in enforcement once the province’s public health state of emergency lapsed in the summer.

According to Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson, they petitioned the province to reinstate enforcement orders.

In a lunch break during city budget deliberations, Mayor Nenshi told reporters that he expected new public health orders from the province would also deal with cities’ enforcement powers.

Calgary city council will get a closed door briefing from Chief Sampson after the provincial announcement Tuesday.

In a media release Tuesday evening the City of Calgary said they support the new measures.

“The City of Calgary supports all efforts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to save lives and protect the healthcare system,” the release read.

“We are currently working through the new provincial public health guidelines to understand the impacts on our own operations and facilities. More information on specific programs and services will be updated on Calgary.ca/covid19.

“The City will be working closely with The Province to determine how we can support at the local level, including enforcement of Public Health Orders.”

Has the COVID-19 strategy to this point failed?

Premier Jason Kenney was asked if these further public health measures meant the initial targeted ones were a failure. Alberta has had the least stringent measures to battle rising COVID-19 cases in the so-called second wave.

Premier Kenney said they’ve led in their response to the pandemic since the beginning. They were the best prepared with personal protective equipment and robust contact tracing.

“We’ve always said we would address this as the situation unfolded,” the Premier said Tuesday.

“You ask why are we taking even more stringent measures? The answer is we are trying to bend down the curve. Alberta is not involved in a chase after zero, because in our view, the broader consequences for the health of our society would be intolerable to try to get to zero with a widespread shutdown.”

‘Half measures’ says Alberta opposition leader

Alberta’s Official Opposition leader, Rachel Notley said the province has been waiting for 12 days, with the Premier in hiding, to get these “half measures.”

“Today’s announcement is simply not enough. It’s the product of political bargaining inside the UCP and not the product of a serious engagement with public health advice,” Notley said.

Specifically around schools, Notley said that no thought has been given to the supports that might be needed for those with complex needs.

“In July, our caucus proposed a 15-point plan to ensure Alberta had safe schools and smaller class sizes in September,” Notley said.

“The UCP refused to implement it, claiming schools were safe and not the source of community spread. To date, we’ve seen more than 500 schools with cases of COVID-19. There are thousands of students, teachers and staff in isolation as we speak.”

Premier Kenney said many of these measures would be in place until mid-December. Should they not help in bending the curve in COVID-19 cases down, Albertans should expect further tightening of public health measures.

EDITOR’S NOTE: COMMENTS WERE CLOSED ON THIS ARTICLE AFTER COMMENTS BECAME PERSONAL AND ABUSIVE.

About Darren Krause 960 Articles
Journalist, husband, father, golfer, writer, painter, video gamer, gardener, amateur botanist, dreamer, realist... never in that order.

22 Comments

  1. I hope mask wearing is enforced. At supserstore I saw five customers with no masks and management did nothing. At London drugs in Calgary there were 7 customers I saw not wearing mask. Police should be circulating to give fines to people breaking mask law

    • Have you ever thought of their health? Yes, it is mandatory but if the person has a health issue they can’t do anything. Again this comes in from judging people, you don’t know their background don’t judge a book by its cover.

      • That’s an excuse, no such thing as a medical reason to wearing a mask. wear a fck mask people it won’t kill you, it’s to protect the vulnerable. It’s not about you!

      • If they have a fucking health issue they shouldn’t be out and about shopping around whent there is a deadly virus, that they’re even more at risk of dying from.

    • There is no way for police to monitor every grocery store and every other establishment, they are spread thin enough as it is. This is all up to the business owners. We need to spread awareness of the companies not enforcing mask rules and hit them where it hurts most; their wallets. Thanks for the heads up to avoid London Drugs.

    • Management did nothing because they are unable to do anything! They cannot enforce that law, only remind customers to wear a mask. Educate yourself before condemning any essential worker that is doing their best to serve you to the best of their ability in these difficult times.

    • Some people cant wear masks due to mental and medical conditions ..so to assume they are non compliant and fine is ridiculous

  2. Businesses need to have the right to refuse service. It’s impossible for police to enforce it. Refuse service if not wearing a mask. City of Calgary transit also needs to do a better job enforcing it and giving hefty fines

  3. You need to understand that not everyone is able to wear a mask, especially if they have health conditions or breathing problems

  4. Mask law? Go back to china!! Who seriously goes out and counts how many people dont wear a mask? Do you have nothing better to do? Masks dont work!! They do nothing!!! If anything you are touching your face more and risk getting infected. Turn of CNN and go watch some real news and see whats actually happening all over the world!!!

    • Wearing a mask is not about protecting yourself. It is about protecting others. Be respectful to others needs.

    • Actually, it would be nice to go to China, except they don’t let anybody in under their COVID rules, which is also why they have had such a good response to COVID. Unlike places like Japan or Hong Kong (which did have very good initial measures but reopened too early), China has kept its national (not local) mobility guidelines and it’s been working. As well, you may be working with some outdated information – at the beginning of the pandemic, it was believed that masks did not work, until new research came out saying that they were an effective way to curb the spread when coupled with other measures. Also, I’m not sure why you brought up China, given that many localities all over the world have mask laws. Not a Chinese citizen or anything, just a Canadian telling you that I found your comment rather odd.

    • Just a heads up, you’re selfish and disgusting. Remember that every day when you look at yourself in the mirror.

      It’s got nothing to do with news, and everything to do with lazy and conceited trash in our society.

      • I invite you to read my post/comments below. It might shed some light concerning your comments/concerns.

  5. Even over 75 years old woman who needs Oxygen concentrator, she always wear the mask with portable oxygen machine whenever she goes out. Must wear the mask. Protect yourself, protect others. PLEASE WEAR THE MASK😷

  6. The police don’t have to fine everybody in one day. Start with 10 today and do the same tomorrow and every day thereafter. Word will spread and before you know it problem solved. Think of it as a voluntary tax on stupid people.

  7. Masks don’t work. Keep watching mainstream media and believing they have your best interest at all. Go take the vaccine.

  8. The honorable Premier falsely exagaratted his claim on the so advance Alberta health care system in comparison to other industrialized countries. Official data show Alberta has less than 50% of medical doctors per capita ( citizen) then for example Germany at a same expenditure $ / capita spent. Both countries costs of about 7,200$ / capita mark for health care.
    This clearly reflects how inefficient the Albertan health care system is. Too much of an administrative balloon. Too many nurses are pushing paper ! Our medical doctors should be able to focus on medical treatments and care for their patience and not filling out forms 5 fold .
    Streamline the service and cut the red tape
    For example it is unacceptable that patience hve to wait 8 months for an MRI

    And by the way Albertan ICU‘s are far from at capacity. The current number of pccupied beds for critical Covid patients is less 10 %.

    Where are our so called free and independent journalists doing a proper report on how many ICU. Beds are available. Please some Little effort here and pride in ur profession
    Go and visit the ICUs in the Province and publish some real numbers and facts on covid related occupancy

    And by the way Alberta still has only about 28 cases / 100,000 inhabitants. No reason to panic
    Germany‘s threshold is 50 !!

  9. I accidentally stumbled on this page and decided to offer an opinion and advice for those who are not reading the medical literature and are simply watching the news/media.

    I would highly recommend that you dedicate some time to reading medical literature so that you can make informed decisions.

    There are extensive randomized controlled trial (RCT) studies, as well as meta-analysis reviews of RCT studies, showing that masks and respirators are INEFFECTIVE in preventing the spread of respiratory influenza-like illnesses, or respiratory illnesses transmitted by droplets and aerosol particles. Not only they are ineffective, but they also put people wearing a mask at higher risk of getting an infection.

    I’ve listed just a few studies below for your reference, but do you own research.

    MacIntyre et all. 2015. “A cluster randomised trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers” British Journal of Medicine.

    Long, Y. et al. 2020 “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks against influenza: A systematic review and meta-analysis”

    Da Zhou C. et al. 2015. “Unmasking the surgeons: the evidence base behind the use of facemasks in surgery”. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

    Radonovich, L.J. et al. 2019. “N95 Respirators vs Medical Masks for Preventing Influenza Among Health Care Personnel: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” The Journal of the American Medical Association .

    Bundgaard H. et al. 2020. Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers

    No RCT study exists that shows a benefit to wear masks in public. The very few studies that have shown the efficacy of masks were either “observational” studies or animal models (e.g. a hamster in a cage), which are nothing like a RCT.

    Furthermore, a June 2020 Document from the World Health Organizations states: “there is no direct evidence (from studies on COVID19 and in healthy people in the community) on the effectiveness of universal masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19”.

    “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.” ― Charles MacKay,

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