Alberta declares state of public health emergency, bans indoor gatherings

EDMONTON — Alberta junior and high school students are being sent home to learn and the province is introducing stricter gathering limits in hopes of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney announced the new public health measures and enacted a state of public health emergency as the province reported 1,115 new cases of COVID-19, its smallest day-over-day increase since Nov. 19.

He said the measures were developed by the Priorities Implementation Committee, which met for eight hours on Monday and heard recommendations from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Starting Nov. 30, all Grade 7 through 12 students will end in-person schooling for the rest of 2020. All students will begin their holiday break Dec. 18 and come back to school in the new year one week later on Jan. 11 to allow for a latency period, the premier said.

As well, all indoor social gatherings, which Kenney called “the key reason why COVID-19 is winning,” are banned across the province. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people. Weddings and funerals will be limited to 10 people.

The premier said Alberta would enforce the new rules and was currently looking for ways to have peace officers deliver fines to those caught disobeying the order.

A previous guideline that places of worship cap their attendance to one third of what is allowed under fire code is now mandatory.

Starting Friday, event venues in certain areas will be closed for business.

Retail and service business services will be allowed to remain open but must restrict their capacity to 25 per cent. This includes restaurants. Kenney said any Albertans dining out together must be of the same household.

Personal, wellness, hotel and professional services will remain open by appointment only.

He also asked that any workers who can work from home do so for a minimum of three weeks. Masks will be mandatory in all indoor workplaces in the Edmonton and Calgary medical zones, where Kenney said 83 per cent of Alberta’s COVID-19 cases are located.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve said that when used properly masks can play an important role in helping to limit the spread of COVID-19,” he commented. 

“They’re not a silver bullet – nothing is – but it’s one useful layer of protection and there are now mountains of studies to confirm that.”

On Tuesday, Alberta’s active case count rose to 13,349, and its death tally by 16 to 492.

This is a breaking news story. Information will be updated as it becomes available. Our original story follows: 

 

Alberta government and health officials are speaking Tuesday afternoon, a day after meeting to discuss introducing new COVID-19 measures.

The Priorities Implementation Committee met Monday afternoon to hear recommendations from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw after she announced 1,549 new cases of the coronavirus and five more deaths.

Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Health Services president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu will join Hinshaw at 4:30 p.m.

In her Monday address, Dr. Hinshaw was asked whether she planned to recommend restrictions that resembled the start of the pandemic or whether she would suggest smaller rules, such as when she suspended group fitness nearly two weeks ago.

“There are a variety of options for consideration and the decision making, of course, as I mentioned, is not easy,” Hinshaw said. 

“It will be up to elected officials to make a determination about what policy options they will choose. And my role, again, is simply to provide recommendations.”

As of Monday, there were 13,166 cases of COVID-19 in Alberta and 328 patients in hospital.

Watch the government’s news conference live at CTVNewsEdmonton.ca.

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