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Alberta

K to 12 students back in schools next week but all other restrictions in place at least two more weeks

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From the Province of Alberta

K-12 students return to in-person learning

All students will return to in-person learning, as planned, on Jan. 11. Mandatory health measures will remain in effect across the province until at least Jan. 21.

The decision to return to in-class learning is based on the latest evidence which shows that before the winter break, new case rates in schools plateaued and then dropped in December, once restrictions on social gatherings and group activities were in place.

“I want to recognize the effort of school staff, teachers and parents to follow health measures and help us keep classrooms safe for Alberta students. I’m confident this effort will continue and we’ll see a successful return to in-person learning to the benefit of all students.”

Jason Kenney, Premier

“Schools play a critical role in supporting student learning as well as their emotional health and overall well-being. In September, the vast majority of parents chose in-person learning for their children during the pandemic and schools have been diligently following the extensive health measures in place. A return to school will provide our students with the familiar daily routine of learning in class and will restore some sense of normalcy for both students and families amidst these unusual times.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education

While students return to in-person learning, all Albertans, businesses, organizations and service providers must continue to follow existing health measures until at least Jan. 21. Active evaluation of the latest public health data is underway and will be used to re-evaluate the current level of restrictions over the coming weeks.

Businesses, organizations and service providers will be given at least one week’s notice prior to changes to the current health measures that may affect them. Government will continue to consult with affected industries.

“The health measures that were put in place in December have helped to reduce the number of active cases, but it’s not enough. Case numbers, hospitalizations and testing positivity rates remain high. We will be carefully evaluating the data over the coming weeks to determine what options we have to give Albertans back more flexibility in their lives, and give businesses a chance to reopen. But the worst thing we could do would be to increase the chances of another surge, which would threaten our health-care system again and require more restrictions. We must be careful and deliberate, and avoid the roller-coaster of uncertainty that a new surge would create.”

Jason Kenney, Premier

“Our government will continue to engage with businesses to provide the necessary supports during this pandemic. To date, more than 35,000 small businesses have accessed over $232 million in funding through our relaunch grant and I encourage any eligible employers to apply today.”

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation

“We cannot back off early and risk losing the gains we’ve made since restrictions were put in place in December. We are asking everyone to remain a part of the solution and keep following the public health measures until we see numbers come down to the point that we can start reopening the province.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

“These mandatory measures are in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 and we are not yet in a position to remove or reduce them. Keeping these measures in place means we are again asking Albertans to make sacrifices – but they are necessary to protect our province. We all have the power to make individual choices to follow the health guidelines and help protect our loved ones, colleagues and neighbours. We are asking you to keep making those good choices.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health

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.

 

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Alberta

WestJet extends temporary suspension of international sun flights until June

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CALGARY — WestJet says it will extend its temporary suspension of international sun flights to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean until June 4.

Canadian airlines in January suspended all flights to sun destinations until April 30 at the request of the federal government. 

WestJet President and CEO Ed Sims said in a release that it made the decision with the clear expectation that as more Canadians are vaccinated, government policy will change.

He says guests with affected itineraries will be notified of the cancellations.

WestJet says since Nov. 1, 2020, it has been providing refunds for all travellers where WestJet initiated flight cancellations.

Sims says WestJet continues to advocate for the replacement of mandatory hotel quarantines with a testing regime that is equitable and consistent with global standards at all points of entry into Canada.

“Alongside an accelerated and successful vaccine rollout, this policy transition will support the safe restart of travel and help stimulate the Canadian economy, where one in ten jobs are tourism-related,” he said Tuesday.

“A safe travel-restart framework is the most effective way to support those interests and restore jobs.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Canada's world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

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CALGARY — Canada’s world champions in beach volleyball are amping up preparations for the Summer Olympics coming over the horizon.

The COVID-19 pandemic kept Sarah Pavan of Kitchener, Ont., and Toronto’s Melissa Humana-Paredes apart and docked from competition for much of 2020.

The Canadian duo plans to compete in at least five tournaments over the next two months starting Thursday in Cancun, Mexico.

The world governing body of volleyball, FIVB, created a hub of three straight World Tour events in Cancun to afford teams the chance to qualify for the Tokyo Summer Games opening July 23.

Pavan and Humana-Paredes booked their Tokyo berth when they won the women’s world title in 2019. 

The upcoming tournaments, however, are crucial game reps for a duo that’s short on them.

“I think Cancun will be a real test for us against every team because it is such a lengthy event, to see where we’re really at,” Pavan told The Canadian Press.

“Other teams are scrambling to accumulate points. Obviously we want to win every tournament we play . . . but to be able to take a very objective approach and just see it as information gathering for Tokyo is definitely a luxury.

“We are able to use all of these events to gather information both on ourselves and the things we need to get better at, but also on tactics teams are using against us, or improvements or changes they may have made during COVID.”

Toronto’s Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson also in the Cancun women’s field have essentially qualified for Tokyo based on their FIVB Olympic provisional ranking of sixth.

Canada can send a maximum of two teams in each gender, but the men have some work to do this spring.

Samuel Pedlow of Barrie, Ont., and Sam Schacter of Richmond Hill, Ont., rank just outside the top 18 in the provisional rankings. 

Calgary’s Ben Saxton and Toronto’s Grant O’Gorman are also trying to qualify.

Pavan, 34, and Humana-Paredes, 28, aren’t facing qualification pressure, but they want to recover their game form in the upcoming tournaments.

“Do I think we’re playing at the level that we need to be in July? Absolutely not,” Pavan said. 

“I don’t think we’re performing at a gold-medal level right now, but fortunately we still have a few months to be able to hit our stride.”

The duo intends to compete in World Tour events in Sochi, Russia in May and Ostrava, Czech Republic in early June. 

They’re also contemplating another tournament in Gstaad, Switzerland in early July to avoid six weeks without a match heading into Tokyo.

Pavan lives in Hermosa Beach, Calif.

Canada’s requirement of a 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving outside the country was a barrier to the teammates crossing the border to practise together.

Neither woman felt she could afford the deconditioning that happens during two weeks of isolation too many times.

Humana-Paredes headed to California on Jan. 2 to join her teammate and stayed there. She doesn’t expect to return to Canada until after the Olympic Games conclude Aug. 8.

“I won’t be able to go home until after Tokyo,” Humana-Paredes said. “That’s the mindset I’ve had to come to terms with.  For the majority of the time, I’m in a good head space and happy to be able to train and be with my team and continue to get better. 

“Sometimes I miss by people back home and than can weigh on me a little sometimes. Last summer was so difficult because there was so much uncertainty.  We do have a schedule to look forward to, a routine and things we can plan for and the Olympics are still on.”

Her boyfriend, Connor Braid of Victoria, is a member of Canada’s rugby sevens team bound for Tokyo.

Pavan and Humana-Paredes finished second in the Katara Beach World Cup in Doha, Qatar on March 12 in their first major international competition in 18 months.

The field didn’t include all of the world’s best teams, said Pavan, but the result was important for the Canadians’ confidence.

“We had signed up for the event, but we didn’t feel ready and we actually made the final decision to go a week before the event,” Pavan said. 

“We were unsure, but we decided to just use it as a measuring stick. There were some teams that weren’t there, but to be able to fight through that event while not being as crisp as we’re used to was good.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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