Alberta bans indoor social gatherings, moves older students online and creates fines; RMWB sees 14 new cases

·2 min read

The Alberta government has brought in massive restrictions on social and public gatherings, which include businesses and services to churches and schools. Failure to follow them can come with a ticketed fine of $1,000 or a maximum court fine of $100,000.

At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency as Alberta reported 1,115 new cases and 16 new deaths. Alberta now leads the country with more active cases than any other province.

“If we do not slow the sharp rise of both hospitalizations and ICU admissions, they will threaten our ability to deliver health services that we all rely on,” said Kenney, who warned the Alberta health care system cannot handle the rate that COVID-19 is spreading. As of Tuesday, 348 Albertans were fighting the virus in hospitals, with 66 patients in intensive care units.

“We believe these are the minimum restrictions needed right now to safeguard our health-care system, while avoiding widespread damage to peoples’ livelihood,” he said.

The province won’t have “snitch line” to enforce rules, but the number of enforcement officers tasked with public health orders will increase.

Kenney rejected calls for a widespread lockdown and economic shutdown, calling that option “an unprecedented violation of fundamental constitutionally protected rights and freedoms.”

He also said this action would hurt small business owners and people living on low incomes.

It was a “grave mistake” this past spring when the province tried distinguishing between essential and non-essential retailers, said Kenney. This allowed big box stores and online retailers to thrive, he said, while small businesses suffered.

“I wish the people advocating that we go to that extreme at this point were perhaps a little more transparent about what we know from the data on the broader social impact, particularly for the vulnerable,” Kenney said.

“Let me just be absolutely clear about this: social gatherings are the biggest problem,” said Kenney. “These gatherings in the home continue to be the largest source of transmission and so they must stop now.”

“Our school system has done very well at limiting in-school transmission, Parents, teachers and staff have worked incredibly hard to keep kids safe,” said Kenney.

However, the premier added the spread of COVID-19 from workplaces and social gatherings means the virus is finding its way into schools. Hinshaw said as of Tuesday, 13 per cent of all schools in Alberta had an active COVID-19 outbreak.

“There’s very limited transmission within the schools but more community transition, affecting the schools and their ability to operate,” said Kenney.

Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today