Restrictions eased for indoor fitness, libraries as Alberta reports 291 COVID-19 cases

Minister of Health Tyler Shandro said they are not easing restrictions for retail, hotels or other businesses listed in the original plan for step two

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Restrictions are eased for indoor fitness and libraries in Alberta effective immediately, the premier announced Monday.

Indoor fitness centres can open for low-intensity activities for individuals and groups and libraries can welcome up to 15 per cent capacity, Premier Jason Kenney said during Monday’s press conference. Low-intensity activities are being defined as those not focused specifically on cardio, such as light weightlifting, barre and tai-chi.

People looking to hit the gym will still have to book an appointment and anyone still interested in high-intensity activity will have to stick to the one-on-one model that was introduced previously.

“Please know that we’re watching the spread of this virus very closely. By moving to step two, we are protecting both lives and livelihoods and taking a safe step forward for Alberta,” said Kenney.

Urban Athlete Fitness Studio owner Kohl Kehler sanitizes equipment in preparation for the lifting of some pandemic restrictions on fitness facilities on Monday, March 1, 2021.
Urban Athlete Fitness Studio owner Kohl Kehler sanitizes equipment in preparation for the lifting of some pandemic restrictions on fitness facilities on Monday, March 1, 2021. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

Minister of Health Tyler Shandro said they are not easing restrictions for retail, hotels or other businesses listed in the original plan for step two. This is due to the recent increase in positivity rate, new cases and the rising R-value.

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“While these changes are positive, we can’t lose sight of the fact that further easing of measures opens up the chance of spreading COVID,” Shandro said.

When Alberta transitioned into its first phase of economic relaunch on Feb. 8 — which included the opening of restaurants, bars and eased restrictions for indoor fitness centres and children’s activities — the province reported 269 new cases of COVID-19 and had logged just over 100 variant cases. The Calgary zone was home to about 39 per cent of the province’s 6,196 active cases at the time.

On Feb. 8, 432 Albertans were in hospital, including 76 in intensive-care units, and the province had recorded 1,710 deaths.

On Monday, as Alberta moves into step two of reopening, the province reported 291 new cases and has detected 457 variant cases, including 449 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K. Thirty-three per cent of the 4,674 active cases are in the Calgary zone.

There are currently 257 Albertans in hospital, including 48 in ICU. With two additional deaths reported to Alberta Health on Monday, the province has now lost 1,888 people to COVID-19.

The R-value — reproduction number — reported on Feb. 8 was 0.87 provincewide but on Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said it was 1.01, meaning the transmission rate is increasing.

The third phase requires a three-week gap to monitor the effects on community transmission and hospitalizations to remain below 300. With this step, the government could ease restrictions for adult team sports, casinos, indoor social gatherings, certain seated events and places of worship.

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Kenney said businesses that were left out of the step two announcement on Monday could see eased restrictions before the third phase begins.

Hinshaw said they’ll be closely monitoring leading indicators to determine the province’s next steps.

“By making choices to reduce in-person interactions, you continue to make a world of difference,” Hinshaw said.

Alberta has administered 235,508 shots of COVID-19 vaccine, including 88,145 people who are fully immunized with their first and second doses. The province began vaccinating seniors in the community Wednesday.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi explained an overall positive experience helping his 80-year-old mother get her first COVID-19 dose last week.

“Everyone was just so happy there. The seniors were so happy. I felt something I hadn’t felt in a year, and that is hope,” Nenshi said Monday while encouraging all eligible seniors to sign up for their immunizations.

— With files from Madeline Smith

sbabych@postmedia.com
Twitter: @BabychStephanie

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