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Watch: Alberta surging toward 100 cases of COVID-19 and shuts down non-essential gatherings of over 50 people

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8 minute read

From the Province of Alberta

Aggressive public health measures, including additional limits to mass gatherings, are being implemented provincewide to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect Albertans.

Latest updates

  • Government will declare a state of public health emergency.
  • 23 additional cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Alberta, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 97. Cases have now been identified in all zones across the province.
    • 70 cases in the Calgary zone
    • 20 cases in the Edmonton zone
    • three cases in the Central zone
    • three cases in the South zone
    • one case in the North zone
  • Mass gatherings are now limited to no more than 50 attendees. This includes worship gatherings and family events such as weddings. Grocery stores, shopping centres, health-care facilities, airports, and other essential services are not included.
  • To limit the amount of time Albertans are spending in large crowds and crowded spaces, all Albertans are prohibited from attending public recreational facilities and private entertainment facilities, including gyms, swimming pools, arenas, science centres, museums, art galleries, community centres, libraries, children’s play centres, casinos, racing entertainment centres, and bingo halls.
  • Sit-down restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, food courts and other food-serving facilities, including those with a minors-allowed liquor license, are limited to 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 50 people. Take-out, delivery or drive-through service is permitted.
  • Licensed restaurants and bars can now sell liquor without selling food as part of their take-out – with the exception of drive-thru windows – and delivery services to help keep businesses open, staff employed and additional options for Albertans who are self-isolating.
  • Changes to the Employment Standards Code have been made to provide job protection for Albertans.
  • Albertans are prohibited from attending buffet-style restaurants. At this time, not-for-profit community kitchens, soup kitchens and religious kitchens are exempt, but sanitization practices are expected to be in place and support will be in place for this practice.
  • Food services in work camps are also exempt, but in addition to appropriate sanitization practices, arrangements should be made to provide for workers if they are self-isolated.
  • $60 million is being provided to help social services organizations respond to critical front-line services.
  • Until further notice, all Albertans are restricted from attending bars and nightclubs, where minors are prohibited by law.
  • Ski hills across the province are strongly encouraged to close by the end of day March 17, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Effective March 18, all passenger ropeways, like gondolas and chairlifts, will be closed until further notice under the Safety Codes Act.
  • All provincial historic sites and the Provincial Archives will be closing March 17. Information regarding facility bookings and passes will be available on the facilities’ websites.
  • Upcoming expiry dates for Alberta drivers’ licences, vehicle registrations, other permits and certificates are being extended until May 15.
  • Effective immediately, the Seniors Information Office, located on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, will be closed to protect the health of clients and staff. Seniors in need of information on seniors financial assistance programs should contact Alberta Supports at 1-877-644-9992.
  • Alberta Court of Appeal is limiting attendance to necessary parties. Matters continue either electronically or with social distancing directives in effect.
  • In-person post-secondary classes remain cancelled as institutions move to alternate delivery formats. Campuses remain open.

Access to justice services

The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee will be suspending in-person visits with clients or service providers.

Alternative arrangements will include phone, email, Skype, texting and videoconferencing. Contact information can be found at https://www.alberta.ca/contact-office-public-guardian-trustee.aspx.

Traffic Courts: www.albertacourts.ca/pc/resources/announcements//traffic-court-pandemic-scheduling-updated

Alberta Court of Appeal: https://albertacourts.ca/ca/publications/announcements/notice—covid-19

Job-protected leave

Full and part-time employees can access 14 days of job-protected leave for the purpose of self-isolation related to COVID-19, retroactive to March 5.

The leave does not apply to self-employed individuals or contractors.

The requirement to have worked for an employer for 90 days to access COVID-19 specific leave is no longer required.

Employees self-isolating due to COVID-19 do not require a medical note to access leave.

Indigenous community response

First Nations are encouraged to develop community response plans with Indigenous Services Canada and their Directors of Emergency Management and First Nations Field Officer. Indigenous Services Canada can be reached at [email protected].

Metis Settlements are encouraged to develop response plans with their Directors of Emergency Management and Field Officer.

Social services organizations

Funding support is being provided through Family and Community Support Services for adult homeless shelters, women’s emergency shelters and civil society organizations to help keep front-line critical services operating and provide support for vulnerable populations.

Information for travellers

Travel outside the country is strongly discouraged. Given the rapid global spread of the virus, it is no longer possible to assess health risks for the duration of the trip.

Any traveller returning from outside of the country should self-isolate for 14 days, even if they are feeling well, and monitor for symptoms.

Any traveller who has returned before March 12 should closely monitor themselves for symptoms. If they experience symptoms, they should self-isolate immediately and call Health Link 811 for follow-up assessment and testing.

The Alberta government is working with Travel Alberta on a strategy to inform Canadians returning from travel outside the province about the need to self-isolate, and how to access medical care, if needed.

COVID-19-related information is now being provided for returning passengers at the international airports in both Edmonton and Calgary. This information has also been shared with the Fort McMurray International Airport and several airlines.

Quick facts

  • The most important measures that Albertans can take to prevent respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, is to practise good hygiene.
    • This includes cleaning your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into your elbow or sleeve, disposing of tissues appropriately, and staying home and away from others if you are sick.
  • Anyone who has health concerns or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should complete an online COVID-19 self-assessment.
  • For recommendations on protecting yourself and your community, visit alberta.ca/COVID19.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Alberta

Alberta premier defends new rules on in-person learning, no mask mandates in schools

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By Dean Bennett and Colette Derworiz

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is defending new rules ordering schools to provide in-person learning during the current wave of viral illnesses, saying a clear, measured response is crucial for students and parents.

“We need a normal school environment for our children, and we need to make sure that the classrooms stay open to be able to support our parents,” Smith said at a news conference in Medicine Hat on Friday.

“That’s why we made the decision that we did — to give that clear direction.”

Her comments came a day after she announced regulatory changes saying school boards must provide in-person learning. Schools also can’t require students to wear masks in school or be forced to take classes online.

The changes take effect immediately.

“Anyone is welcome to wear a mask if they feel that that is the right choice for them, but we should not be forcing parents to mask their kids, and we shouldn’t be denying education to kids who turn up without a mask,” Smith said.

She has said mask rules and toggling from online to in-person learning adversely affected the mental health, development and education of students during the COVID-19 pandemic and strained parents scrambling to make child-care arrangements when schools shut down.

That’s over, Smith said.

“We’re just not going to normalize these kind of extreme measures every single respiratory virus season,” she said.

School boards have been asking for more direction as a slew of seasonal respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, along with some COVID-19 cases, have led to high classroom absentee rates and have jammed children’s hospitals.

In Edmonton, Trisha Estabrooks, board chair for Edmonton Public Schools, said the decision provided the clarity that the board was seeking.

“All Albertans now understand that it’s not within the jurisdiction, and nor should it ever have been within the jurisdiction of individual school boards, to make decisions that belong to health officials,” said Estabrooks.

She said the province has made it clear that any future public health order would supersede the new rules.

The in-person learning change applies to grades 1-12 in all school settings, including public, separate, francophone, public charter and independent schools.

The masking change applies to those same grades and schools, but also to early childhood services.

The Opposition NDP criticized the new rules, saying it’s unrealistic to force schools to be all things to all students while also handling a wave of viral illnesses and not providing additional supports to do it.

Jason Schilling, head of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said the government needs to work with school boards to figure out how to make this work.

“You have schools that are struggling to staff the building, (they) can’t get substitute teachers, teachers are sick, they’re covering each other’s classes, principals are covering the classes,” Schilling said in an interview.

“And then to say if you go online, you are to still offer the same programming in person — we just don’t have the people to do that.”

Wing Li, communications director for public education advocacy organization, Support our Students, said it will be difficult for schools to offer hybrid learning without any additional resources.

“There are no teachers,” Li said in an interview. “Pivoting online was mostly due to staffing shortages, which is worse now three years in.”

Li said online learning is challenging for students but, when temporary and supported, can keep schools and communities safe from spreading illness.

“This is a quite aggressive use of the Education Act to enshrine an ideology,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2022

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Alberta

Don’t have a cow: Senator’s legen-dairy speech draws metaphor from bovine caper

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OTTAWA — Haven’t you herd? A dramatic tale of 20 escaped cows, nine cowboys and a drone recently unfolded in St-Sévère, Que., and it behooved a Canadian senator to milk it for all it was worth.

Prompting priceless reactions of surprise from her colleagues, Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne recounted the story of the bovine fugitives in the Senate chamber this week — and attempted to make a moo-ving point about politics.

“Honourable senators, usually, when we do tributes here, it is to recognize the achievements of our fellow citizens,” Miville-Dechêne began in French, having chosen to wear a white blouse with black spots for the occasion.

“However, today, I want to express my amused admiration for a remarkably determined herd of cows.”

On a day when senators paid tribute to a late Alberta pastor, the crash of a luxury steamer off the coast of Newfoundland in 1918 and environmental negotiators at the recent climate talks in Egypt, senators seated near Miville-Dechêne seemed udderly taken aback by the lighter fare — but there are no reports that they had beef with what she was saying.

Miville-Dechêne’s storytelling touched on the highlights of the cows’ evasion of authorities after a summer jailbreak — from their wont to jump fences like deer to a local official’s entreaty that she would not go running after cattle in a dress and high heels.

The climax of her narrative came as nine cowboys — eight on horseback, one with a drone — arrived from the western festival in nearby St-Tite, Que., north of Trois-Rivières, and nearly nabbed the vagabonds before they fled through a cornfield.

“They are still on the run, hiding in the woods by day and grazing by night,” said Miville-Dechêne, with a note of pride and perhaps a hint of fromage. 

She neglected to mention the reported costs of the twilight vandalism, which locals say has cost at least $20,000.

But Miville-Dechêne did save some of her praise for the humans in the story, congratulating the municipal general manager, Marie-Andrée Cadorette, for her “dogged determination,” and commending the would-be wranglers for stepping up when every government department and police force in Quebec said there was nothing they could do. 

“There is a political lesson in there somewhere,” said the former journalist.

Miville-Dechêne ended on what could perhaps be interpreted as a butchered metaphor about non-partisanship: “Finally, I would like to confess my unbridled admiration for these cows that have found freedom and are still out there, frolicking about. While we overcomplicate things, these cows are learning to jump fences.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.

Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press

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