Alberta government adds minor sports training to Monday’s Step 1 COVID-19 reopening

The Alberta government announced Saturday that it had added “limited school and minor sport training” to Monday’s Step 1 of the province’s staggered COVID-19 relaunch plan.

Previously, only school-related sports were set to be included in Step 1.

Now, effective Feb. 8, children and youth will be permitted to participate in lessons, practices and conditioning activities for indoor and outdoor team-based minor sports and athletics.

Games remain prohibited.

The new rules only include team-based sports, and not group lessons such as dance or gymnastics.

A spokesperson from Alberta Health said that the agency was reaching out to stakeholders such as dance studios this weekend to clarify what is included in Step 1.

“This is a first step meant to help support the health and well-being of young Albertans, while continuing to limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Tom McMillan with Alberta Health.

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“The change was made based on feedback we received about the challenges of one-on-one training for some sports and activities among young people.”

Read more: Marches planned in Alberta communities asking for a return to youth sports

Safety measures that must be in place for the team sports training include a maximum of 10 people including coaches and trainers, physical distancing between all participants, and limited access to change rooms and washrooms.

Coaches must be masked at all times, and participants must also be masked when they are not engaged in the physical activity.

“While these activities are included in Step 1, there are strong measures in place that must continue to be followed,” said a statement from Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

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The Step 1 minor sport training rules apply only to participants who are 18 years old or younger.

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“Despite this small change, one thing remains the same: we all need to be cautious and make safe choices to limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw. “It is vital that everyone involved diligently follows the health measures as we move forward.

“Together, we can continue to reduce the spread and keep protecting our health system.”

The announcement comes just days after Hockey Alberta cancelled all minor hockey games for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

On Saturday, Hockey Alberta said it is reviewing the announcement.

“Hockey Alberta became aware of the new opportunities for team sports in Step 1 of the Government of Alberta’s A Path Forward when the update was released to the public [Saturday] morning,” said an emailed statement to Global News.

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“It is definitely a positive step for allowing players back onto the ice for hockey activities. Hockey Alberta is reviewing what is now allowed and will update our members as soon as possible on ‘Hockey’s Path Forward.’”

Previously, Step 1 of the relaunch plan would have allowed one-on-one training with a coach.

Read more: COVID-19: Hockey Alberta cancels minor hockey games for remainder of season

Other aspects included in Step 1 on Feb. 8 are the reopening of in-person dining as well as one-on-one training in gyms.

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