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Holiday visit exemption is given to Alberta adults living alone

Alberta is offering a five-day COVID-19 exemption for single Albertans living alone, giving them an opportunity to join the household of others over the holiday season.

The announcement was made during Tuesday’s provincial COVID-19 briefing. The province said there were 1,021 new COVID-19 cases, and 11 new deaths.  There are 18,331 active cases in the province, down 834 from yesterday.

There are 802 Albertans in hospital and 152 in intensive care units.

From Dec. 23 to 28, adult Albertans who live alone can visit another household once (not including minors). They are asking all people doing this to take the proper precautions.  Each household can bring in a maximum of two single people.

“This approach strives to balance mental wellness for individuals living alone, and the need to limit COVID-19 spread,” said Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

She said if you are gathering with someone that could be at higher risk of severe outcomes, take precautions. Wear a mask indoors, maintain distance, use hand sanitizer, she said.

Mental health over the holidays will be a challenge, Hinshaw said. There are supports available.

“This is completely understandable and you are not alone in those feelings. Looking after our own and each other’s mental health is just as important as washing hands regularly and staying home when sick,” she said.

Uncle COVID and singles in homes

Premier Jason Kenney, who attended Tuesday’s briefing, was asked if there was a mixed message between today’s announcement and the recent provincial COVID-19 awareness campaign.

The Uncle COVID videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times since it was launched. It depicts a person with a COVID-virus head at social gatherings and parties and spread the virus.

Premier Kenney said obviously close contact does increase potential transmission.

“We have to balance that off against a lot of other considerations especially mental health considerations,” he said.

“We know that Christmastime for lots of reason is bound up with people’s emotional and mental health, and we don’t want to make the already serious mental health crisis in the province even more serious for people being completely isolated at Christmastime.”

Other jurisdictions around the world are doing a similar thing, Premier Kenney said.

The premier was also asked if he expected people to take this new relaxation as an opening to have larger gatherings.

“I think the people who might be disinclined to violate the rules will do so anyway unfortunately,” he said.

“It’s an irresponsible decision, but it is a decision that they’re probably going to make, regardless of what guidelines and restrictions the government puts in place.”

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro encouraged people to keep the trajectory in cases headed downward.

“If you stop following the restrictions over the holiday, the numbers will not keep going down,” he said.

“We’ll see, in fact, a whole other spike. And it’s that simple.”