Alberta Moves To A Cautious Step 2

·3 min read

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that the province would safely and cautiously enter Step 2 of the Path Forward reopening plan at the provincial COVID-19 update on Mar. 1, 2021. Premier Kenney began the update by reviewing the progress that Albertans have made over the past few months in bending the COVID-19 curve; Alberta has moved from a peak of around 950 pandemic-related hospitalizations to just 257 as of Mar. 1; there has been a 95% decline in active cases at long-term care facilities, and there has been a 92% decline in active cases at designated supportive living facilities. Kenney warned that the province isn’t out of the woods yet, but we can take some cautious steps forward.

Starting today:

· Libraries: Can reopen at up to 15% of their fire code capacity, not including staff.

· Indoor Fitness (There are no changes to outdoor fitness guidelines):

-Low-intensity individual and group activities are now allowed by appointment only (e.g. Pilates, light weightlifting, tai chi, wall climbing, etc.). Masks are mandatory for low-intensity activity participants.

-High-intensity activities are allowed in a one-on-one setting with a trainer or with members of the same household with one trainer (e.g. heavy weightlifting, aerobics, Bootcamp, circuit training, etc.). Trainers are required to wear masks at all times.

-Participants, coaches, and trainers must maintain a mandatory distance of 3 meters from one another at all times.

-To qualify as a trainer, the individual must professional, certified, and/or paid. Trainers must also be providing active instruction and correction.

The province has chosen to take a careful approach to easing the current health restrictions with the move to Step 2. While hospitalizations have decreased, the number of active cases has levelled off, and there has been a small increase in both the testing positivity rate and the number of active cases. There has also been a slight increase in the number of new COVID-19 variant cases. In response to these factors, the easing of restrictions on retail, hotels, banquets, community halls, conference centers and children’s sports and performance has been delayed. These measures may be able to be relaxed over the next few weeks, in line with the original Step 2 planning, as long as the province’s hospitalization numbers, growth rates of infections, new case numbers, and positivity rates remain within manageable limits.

The new COVID-19 variants appear to be causing some concern in the province’s reopening plans. These new variants seem to be anywhere from 30 - 50% more infectious than the dominant COVID-19 strain. The number of new variant cases continues to increase with 35 new cases announced by Alberta Health on Mar. 1, bringing Alberta’s total number of variant cases to 457.

Kenney also reiterated the importance of avoiding indoor social gatherings. While contact tracers are unsure of the source of transmission for roughly 1/3 of the active COVID-19 cases, over 30% of cases were due to in-home transmission. He reminded Albertans that if they are feeling sick or have tested positive and can not isolate at home, the Provincial Government is providing free voluntary hotel stays with isolation payments to help meet the financial challenges associated with having to quarantine.

Alberta’s ongoing vaccination efforts were also discussed during the update, being referred to by Jason Kenney as a “game-changer”. So far, Alberta Health Services has administered over 235,000 doses of the approved vaccines, including over 88,000 people who have been fully immunized with both doses.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette