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Alberta

Half Capacity Crowds for World Junior Tournament – Alberta to restrict large gatherings to slow Omicron

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More boosters, tests and measures to fight Omicron

Alberta’s government is taking further steps to strengthen vaccine protection and testing while bringing in new public health measures to reduce contact between Albertans as Omicron cases continue to grow.

All Albertans aged 18 and older can now book a booster shot, as long as at least five months have passed since their second dose, and Alberta has authorized the purchase of 10 million rapid tests.

New measures that will take effect on Dec. 24 will focus on avoiding super-spreader events by decreasing contacts in large capacity venues and limiting unrestricted activities where there is a high risk of transmission.

Albertans are also being asked to reduce their social contacts by 50 per cent during the holiday season.

New public health measures

The new mandatory measures taking effect at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 24 are:

  • For venues in the Restrictions Exemption Program – 50 per cent capacity limit at venues that seat more than 1,000 people. For venues with capacity of between 500 and 1,000 occupants, 500 is the limit.
  • No food or drink consumption in seated audience settings or during intermissions in the above-mentioned venues.
  • There is no impact on venues under 500.
  • Maximum table capacity of 10 people in restaurants, pubs and bars. No mingling between tables.
  • No interactive activities at restaurants, pubs and bars (e.g., dancing, darts and billiards).
  • Restaurants, pubs and bars must stop liquor service at 11 p.m., and close at 12:30 a.m.

Restrictions continue for both indoor and outdoor social gatherings, weddings, funerals, places of worship and businesses. Albertans should also refrain from workplace social gatherings.

Masking remains mandatory in all indoor public spaces, including in facilities participating in the Restrictions Exemption Program. Masks should fit well and be of high quality. Albertans with risk factors for severe outcomes should wear medical masks in settings with those outside of their household.

COVID-19 boosters

All Albertans aged 18 and older who received their second COVID-19 vaccine at least five months ago can now book a third dose.

Albertans are encouraged to take the first mRNA vaccine available to them for a third dose. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines offer a high level of protection against COVID-19, particularly against severe outcomes.

Pfizer will be offered to Albertans 18 to 29 years of age for booster purposes as a cautionary measure. While there is an increased risk of myocarditis in younger Albertans, especially in males, from Moderna, individuals are much more likely to experience myocarditis from COVID-19 infection than the vaccine.

All Albertans aged 18 and older can book appointments for third doses online with participating pharmacies or AHS by using the Alberta vaccine booking system or by calling AHS at 811.

At-home rapid test kits

In addition to ongoing orders for rapid tests from the Government of Canada, Alberta’s government will directly purchase up to 10 million rapid tests for anticipated delivery in January, allowing Albertans to secure immediate supplies.

More than 2.5 million rapid tests, or 500,000 rapid test kits, have already been made available to Albertans in the broad rollout that began on Dec 17. Additional supplies have been received from the federal government and are being shipped to participating AHS and pharmacy locations. If you have not already picked up your kit, visit alberta.ca/CovidRapidTests to find the location nearest you with available stock, as many locations still have supplies available.

 

“While these new measures will hopefully lower the risk at large events, our small everyday actions can have a big impact. This is why I appeal to all Albertans to reduce their number of contacts by half over the coming weeks, follow the guidelines already in place, and get the vaccine booster as soon as they are eligible. It’s the single most important thing anybody can do right now to protect themselves from Omicron.”

Jason Kenney, Premier   

“These new measures, along with more boosters and rapid test availability, will help slow the spread of COVID-19. These efforts are critical as work continues to prepare our health-care system for potential challenges from the Omicron variant. I know Albertans are tired of the pandemic, but we need to take what we have learned from previous waves and urgently apply it to our current situation.”

Jason Copping, Minister of Health

“Now more than ever, it is important for Albertans to follow public health measures and consider how their actions may affect others. While we are still learning about Omicron, we do know that it is highly transmissible – cases are currently doubling in a matter of days. Reducing contacts will not only slow the spread of Omicron, but it can help us gain valuable time to prepare for what is to come.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health

Alberta

Post-secondary schools must report on free speech efforts on campus, minister says

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Edmonton – The Alberta government says it will require post-secondary institutions to report annually on their efforts to protect free speech on campus.

A news release from the Department of Advanced Education does not detail exactly what must be included in these reports, or say what the consequences would be if the requirements are not met.

Minister Demetrios Nicolaides signalled changes were coming earlier this week after the University of Lethbridge reversed its decision to host a speech by a former Mount Royal University professor whose comments on residential schools have drawn fierce criticism.

Frances Widdowson was fired from Mount Royal in late 2021 after she spoke of the educational benefits of residential schools while questioning whether abuses at the institutions amounted to cultural genocide.

Widdowson’s campus speech this week was to centre on concerns that a mob mentality and “woke policies” increasingly threaten academic freedom.

The Alberta government says the latest move builds on its earlier work in 2019, when it required all 26 publicly funded post-secondary institutions in Alberta to either endorse the Chicago Principles on free expression, or develop a policy consistent with them.

“It is abundantly clear that more needs to be done to ensure our institutions are adequately protecting free speech,” Nicolaides said in a written statement Friday.

Alberta’s post-secondary institutions should be bastions of free speech and academic freedom that promote critical thinking. I will continue to explore greater steps we can take to strengthen free speech on campus.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

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Alberta

Overdose prevention services in Red Deer will soon transition to a mobile site operated by Alberta Health Services

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Next steps for Red Deer overdose prevention site

Alberta’s government continues to make overdose prevention services available across the province while also ensuring the safety of communities and neighbourhoods is a top priority. Alberta’s government will be working in partnership with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Turning Point over the next three to six months to implement the transition to a mobile overdose prevention site operated by AHS.

This transition is necessary to respond to the changing needs in Red Deer while improving the standard of service delivery at the overdose prevention site. Alberta’s government will continue working closely with the City of Red Deer and the broader community to put the safety and security of the community first while continuing to provide overdose prevention services in a professional manner.

“Overdose prevention services are healthcare services that must meet quality standards to ensure the safety of the community and a high-standard of care. Alberta Health Services is an accountable and proven operator that has experience managing these services across Alberta. My ministry will be working closely with AHS and the current operator over the next few months to smoothly transition these operations, ensuring there are no gaps in service for clients of the services.”

Nicholas Milliken, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction

“We appreciate the leadership of the government of Alberta in this area. We thank Turning Point for their service and the lives saved over the past several years. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Red Deerians is a top priority, and we are confident this new AHS-operated mobile site will continue to meet the needs of our residents.”

Ken Johnston, Mayor of Red Deer

Once the transition occurs, the new AHS-operated mobile unit will initially operate at the same location as the current overdose prevention site. Alberta’s government will continue to work with the City of Red Deer, and may change the location of the service within Red Deer based on input from the municipality ­and the changing needs of the community.

As with all overdose prevention services in the province, this mobile unit will be regulated and be required to meet the quality standards outlined in the Recovery-oriented Supervised Consumption Standards in order to be licensed. Overdose prevention site service providers must also demonstrate clearly defined referral pathways to detox, treatment and recovery services, as well as primary health-care services.

Alberta’s government is continuing to build a recovery-oriented system of care, where everyone struggling with addiction and mental health challenges is supported in their pursuit of recovery. This includes adding more than 9,000 new publicly funded treatment spaces, eliminating fees for residential addiction treatment, launching the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) app and expanding opioid agonist treatment.

Quick facts

  • To be licensed, supervised consumption site service providers need to follow requirements related to:
  • the safety and security of clients, employees and the surrounding community
  • standardized data collection
  • staff qualifications and training
  • clinical practice standards
  • good neighbour agreements
  • physical site requirements, such as having access to washrooms for clients
  • Health Canada is responsible for granting exemptions under Section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to allow supervised consumption sites to operate. Overdose prevention sites require a similar exemption under Section 56(1) of the act or a letter of authorization from the Government of Alberta under the authority of the province’s class exemption.
  • Alberta spends more than $1 billion annually on addiction and mental health care and supports, including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.
  • Any Albertan struggling with addiction can contact 211 Alberta to connect with local services and virtual supports. 211 is free, confidential and available 24-7.
  • The Virtual Opioid Dependency Program provides same-day access to addiction medicine physicians and life-saving medications to Albertans across the province. Albertans can call 1-844-383-7688 seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
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