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Alberta cracking down on mask exemptions – Note required

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Masking exceptions for health conditions

  • Starting May 13, the rules around exemptions from wearing a mask due to a medical condition are changing. Individuals will now be required to obtain a medical exception letter verifying their health condition from an authorized health-care provider.
  • The medical exception letter must come from a nurse practitioner, physician or psychologist. It may be presented when in a public setting, if requested by enforcement officials or retrospectively in court if a ticket is issued.
  • This is modelled after the approaches currently used in Saskatchewan and other provinces.

Update 221: COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta (May 13, 4:15 p.m.)

Cases remain high in all parts of Alberta. Continue following the restrictions in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health-care system.

Latest updates

  • Over the last 24 hours, 1,558 new cases were identified.
  • There are 722 people in hospital due to COVID-19, including 177 in intensive care.
  • There are 24,586 active cases in the province.
  • To date, 188,475 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19.
  • In the last 24 hours, there were nine additional COVID-related deaths reported: one on April 28, one on May 8, two on May 10, one on May 11, three on May 12, and one on May 13.
  • The testing positivity rate was 10.6 per cent.
  • There were 15,266 tests (4,375,995 total) completed in the last 24 hours and a total of 2,103,334 people tested overall.
  • All zones across the province have cases:
    • Calgary Zone: 11,584 active cases and 75,055 recovered
    • South Zone: 1,255 active cases and 10,227 recovered
    • Edmonton Zone: 5,470 active cases and 67,097 recovered
    • North Zone: 3,618 active cases and 20,117 recovered
    • Central Zone: 2,647 active cases and 15,961 recovered
    • 12 active cases and 18 recovered cases in zones to be confirmed
    • Additional information, including case totals, is online.
  • Alberta has identified 276 additional cases of variants of concern, bringing the provincial total to 39,989.
  • Currently, 907 schools, about 38 per cent, are on alert or have outbreaks, with 6,736 cases in total.
    • 439 schools are on alert, with 1,067 total cases.
    • Outbreaks are declared in 468 schools, with a total of 5,669 cases.
    • In-school transmission has likely occurred in 818 schools. Of these, 273 have had only one new case occur as a result.
  • There are currently 115 active and 9,487 recovered cases at long-term care facilities and supportive/home living sites.
  • To date, 1,251 of the 2,121 reported deaths (59 per cent) have been in long-term care facilities or supportive/home living sites.

COVID-19 vaccination program

  • As of May 12, 2,019,714 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Alberta, with 38 per cent of the population having received at least one dose. There are now 322,247 Albertans fully vaccinated with two doses.
  • All Albertans age 12 and older are eligible to book appointments through AHS or a participating pharmacy provincewide.
  • Legislation now allows Albertans up to three hours of paid, job-protected leave to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

New vaccination campaign launches

  • Back to Normal is a new phase of Alberta’s vaccination campaign, intended to emphasize the crucial importance of Albertans getting vaccinated so life can return to normal.
  • This advertisement is the first element of the campaign. Additional advertising showing other aspects of daily life will be released soon.

Masking exceptions for health conditions

  • Starting May 13, the rules around exemptions from wearing a mask due to a medical condition are changing. Individuals will now be required to obtain a medical exception letter verifying their health condition from an authorized health-care provider.
  • The medical exception letter must come from a nurse practitioner, physician or psychologist. It may be presented when in a public setting, if requested by enforcement officials or retrospectively in court if a ticket is issued.
  • This is modelled after the approaches currently used in Saskatchewan and other provinces.

Restrictions in place for high case regions

  • Restrictions are in place. Outdoor gatherings are limited to five people, most schools have moved to online learning, retail capacity is reduced and in-person dining and services are not allowed at restaurants, bars and cafés.
  • Municipalities that have fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people and/or fewer than 30 active cases are able to return to Step 0 level restrictions.

Enforcement of public health measures

  • Fines for non-compliance with public health measures have doubled to $2,000.
  • Unpaid fines are backstopped with stronger fine collection actions and restrictions on registry services. For example, a person may have to pay their outstanding fine before they can renew their driver’s licence.
  • Repeat offenders will be targeted with a new multi-agency enforcement framework.
  • Tickets can be given at the time of an incident or post-infraction – someone who isn’t charged immediately may receive a ticket after authorities do further investigation.

Rapid testing

Continuing care

  • Restrictions for visitors to continuing care facilities have been eased.
  • These changes will vary by site based on the design of the building, wishes of residents and other factors.
  • Each site must develop their own visiting approach that falls within the guidelines set out and reflects the risk tolerance of the residents who live at that site.

COVID Care Teams outreach

  • If you or others in your home have been directed to self-isolate/quarantine by Alberta Health Services and are unable to do so safely at home, please contact 211 to discuss options, including accessing an assigned hotel to safely isolate (free of charge). Financial assistance may also be available in the amount of $625, upon completion of the self-isolation period.

Albertans downloading tracer app

  • All Albertans are encouraged to download the secure ABTraceTogether app, which is integrated with provincial contact tracing. The federal app is not a contact tracing app.
  • Secure contact tracing is an effective tool to stop the spread by notifying people who were exposed to a confirmed case so they can isolate and be tested.
  • As of May 13, 314,511 Albertans were using the ABTraceTogether app, 69 per cent on iOS and 31 per cent on Android.
  • Secure contact tracing is a cornerstone of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy.

MyHealth Records quick access

  • Parents and guardians can access the COVID-19 test results for children under the age of 18 through MyHealth Records (MHR) as soon as they are ready.
  • More than 600,000 Albertans have MHR accounts.

Addiction and mental health supports

  • Confidential supports are available. The Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 and the Addiction Help Line at 1-866-332-2322 operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Resources are also available online.
  • The Kids Help Phone is available 24-7 and offers professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young people by texting CONNECT to 686868.
  • Online resources provide advice on handling stressful situations and ways to talk with children.

Family violence prevention

  • A 24-hour Family Violence Information Line at 310-1818 provides anonymous help in more than 170 languages.
  • Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence is available at 1-866-403-8000, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • People fleeing family violence can call local police or the nearest RCMP detachment to apply for an Emergency Protection Order, or follow the steps in the Emergency Protection Orders Telephone Applications (COVID-19).
  • Information sheets and other resources on family violence prevention are at alberta.ca/COVID19.

Alberta’s government is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by protecting lives and livelihoods with precise measures to bend the curve, sustain small businesses and protect Alberta’s health-care system.

Quick facts

  • Legally, all Albertans must physically distance and isolate when sick or with symptoms.
  • Good hygiene is your best protection: wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, cough or sneeze into an elbow or sleeve, and dispose of tissues appropriately.
  • Please share acts of kindness during this difficult time at #AlbertaCares.
  • Alberta Connects Contact Centre (310-4455) is open Monday to Friday, 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

This is a news release from the Government of Alberta.

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Alberta

New year, old issues: Enbridge, state of Michigan renew Line 5 hostilities in court

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WASHINGTON — Enbridge Inc. and the state of Michigan are renewing their legal hostilities over the future of the controversial Line 5 pipeline — and their latest court battle looks an awful lot like the last one.

Attorney General Dana Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were dealt a setback last November when District Court Judge Janet Neff granted Enbridge’s request that the case be removed to federal court, a decision that prompted Michigan to abandon that particular challenge.

Instead, the state is focusing its efforts on a separate but similar circuit court action filed in 2019 that spent last year in a state of suspended animation, and which Enbridge is once again arguing should be heard by a federal judge because it comprises an important foreign policy question.

Too late, Nessel argues in her latest tract of court documents, filed Friday with the very same judge who heard the original arguments.

“The present action was pending in state court for nearly two and a half years before (Enbridge) removed it to this court,” she says. Federal law makes it clear that cases can only be removed to federal jurisdiction within 30 days of a complaint being filed, the documents note.

“It is more than two years too late, and federal courts do not condone this type of gamesmanship and abuse of the removal statutes.”

By Nessel’s logic, Enbridge knew perfectly well it could have petitioned to have the case removed when it was originally filed but opted not to do so until now — a “remarkably dilatory” act based on an argument that “defies the facts, the law and basic common sense.”

Enbridge has yet to file a response to Nessel’s latest brief. However, the company has repeatedly indicated it has no plans to shut down Line 5 voluntarily and will continue to fight in court to keep it running.

The overarching question — whether a dispute over the lawful operation of an international, cross-border pipeline should be heard by a federal judge or at the state court level — is a carbon copy of the battle the two sides fought in front of Neff for the better part of last year.

The clash first erupted in November 2020, when Whitmer abruptly revoked the 68-year-old easement that had long allowed Calgary-based Enbridge to operate the line. She cited the risk of environmental catastrophe in the Straits of Mackinac, where Line 5 crosses the Great Lakes.

The pipeline ferries upwards of 540,000 barrels per day of crude oil and natural gas liquids across the Canada-U.S. border and the Great Lakes by way of a twin line that runs along the lake bed beneath the straits linking Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Proponents call Line 5 a vital and indispensable source of energy, especially propane, for several Midwestern states, including Michigan and Ohio. It is also a key source of feedstock for critical refineries on the northern side of the border, including those that supply jet fuel to some of Canada’s busiest airports.

Enbridge and its allies, including the federal Liberal government, insist that the pipeline is too vital an energy artery to both countries for it to be suddenly shut down, and the question of its continued safe operation is one to be settled between Ottawa and the White House.

Central to that argument is a 1977 bilateral treaty that was conceived to avoid disruptions to the cross-border flow of energy, one that proved to be a key element in Enbridge’s strategy to convince Neff that the controversy should be adjucated by a federal judge.

Canada said late last year that planning was “well underway” for bilateral treaty talks between Canada and the United States in the dispute over the pipeline, although the timeline for formal negotiations has never been publicly disclosed.

Last year, lawyers for the federal government also filed a statement in court expressing support for Enbridge’s argument, known in legal parlance as an amicus brief. It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether Ottawa expects to do so again.

The White House has acknowledged that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting an environmental assessment on Enbridge’s plans to encase the underwater portion of the twin pipeline in a deep, fortified underground tunnel. But they have so far resisted pressure to get involved in the dispute itself.

Critics want the line shut down, arguing it’s only a matter of time before an anchor strike or technical failure triggers a catastrophic environmental disaster in one of the area’s most important watersheds. Michigan has every right to take whatever steps are necessary to protect it, the National Wildlife Federation said in a statement.

“This motion is critical because if successful, it will allow the state courts to consider for the first time whether the risks of a rupture of Line 5 in the Great Lakes justify the continued operation of the pipeline,” said federation attorney Andy Buchsbaum.

“If Enbridge’s gamesmanship is successful, it would allow Enbridge to circumvent Michigan’s ability to protect the Great Lakes and to tie the case up in federal court by months, if not years, leaving the Great Lakes in great danger.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18,2022.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Monahan’s two-goal performance powers Calgary Flames past Florida Panthers 5-1

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CALGARY — Sean Monahan’s first two-goal game of the season helped the slumping Calgary Flames to a surprise 5-1 victory over the NHL-leading Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

After scoring a power-play goal on a deflection at 16:03 of the second period to make it 3-1, Monahan put the game away in the third, making it 5-1 at 6:43, taking a drop pass from Johnny Gaudreau and neatly beating goaltender Spencer Knight on a move from in-close.

Rasmus Andersson, with his first of the season, Matthew Tkachuk and Blake Coleman also scored for Calgary (18-11-6), which snapped a four-game losing streak and won on home ice for the first time since Nov. 29.

The Flames entered the night 2-7-1 in their previous 10 games.

Sam Bennett scored the lone goal for Florida (26-8-5), which had its four-game winning streak and nine-game points-streak (8-0-1) snapped.

The next outing for both teams will be in Edmonton with the Panthers’ second stop on a five-game road trip taking place on Thursday. Calgary isn’t back in action until Saturday when the Flames play the Oilers at Rogers Place.

Markstrom, who has given up four or more goals in four of his previous five starts, made 28 stops to improve to 13-8-5.

After starting the last seven games, Sergei Bobrovsky got the night off with Knight getting his first start since Dec. 30. Knight made 26 saves. His record falls to 7-5-2.

Calgary got off to a fast start, getting a power play four minutes into the game and taking just 23 seconds to take advantage with Andersson knocking in his own rebound from the slot.

The Flames extended their lead to 2-0 at 11:36 of the first. A stretch of prolonged pressure by Calgary’s newly formed second line culminated in Coleman’s seventh goal, the assists going to his linemates Andrew Mangiapane and Mikael Backlund.

But Bennett, in his first game back in Calgary scored 12:36 into the second to cut Florida’s deficit in half. Bennett was traded to Florida ahead of the trade deadline last season after logging 402 games with Calgary over six seasons. He’s been a revelation since joining the Panthers scoring 22 goals in 40 games.

The power play was key for the Flames striking twice on three opportunities after entering the game 0-for-10 during the losing streak.

Gaudreau had his first four-assist game ever on home ice and just the second of his career. Tkachuk also kept his offensive hot streak going with three points. He has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) over his last eight games.

Although the Panthers own the league’s best home record at 21-3-0, they haven’t enjoyed the same success away from FLA Live Arena, now 5-5-5.

For the Flames, they have struggled similarly at the Saddledome, picking up their first win since Nov. 29. They’re 5-4-4 on the year.

Notes: Gaudreau’s only other four-assist game was in Nashville on Feb. 21, 2017… It was the first time this season Florida did not get a point from a defenceman… Mason Marchment returned to the Panthers lineup for the first time since Jan. 1. An assist gives him a five-game point streak.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2022.

Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press

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