The government of Alberta has announced a plan to ease COVID-19 health measures in a series of steps, depending on the number of associated hospitalizations in the province.
Premier Jason Kenney announced the changes in a Jan. 29 press conference. The restrictions will be eased in four steps, based on the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients across the province, including intensive care patients.
Hospitalizations were chosen as a benchmark metric because it is a clear indication of healthcare capacity, stated Kenney.
Step one will take effect when the number of hospitalizations fall below 600. As of Jan. 29, there were 594 people with COVID-19 in hospital, so the province is planning to move to this step on Feb. 8.
Under step one, restaurants, cafes and pubs can reopen for in-person dining, but they must collect contact information of one person from the dining party for contact tracing. Up to six people are allowed per table and they must be from the same household or the two close contacts for people living alone. Liquor service must end at 10 p.m., while dining is to close by 11 p.m. Entertainment, such as VLTs, pool tables and live music is not permitted.
Indoor and outdoor children’s sports and performance activities will also be permitted, if related to school activities, such as gym class.
Also, indoor fitness may reopen, but only for one-on-one training scheduled by appointment. No sports, competitions, team practices, league play or group exercise are yet permitted.
If after three weeks there are less than 450 hospitalizations, the province will consider moving to step two, which could result in the easing of some restrictions related to retail, community halls, hotels, banquet halls and conference centres.
The third step will occur when hospitalizations are lower than 300 and will see easing of restrictions related to places of worship, adult team sports, museums, art galleries, zoos and interpretative centres, indoor seated events (e.g., movie theatres, auditoriums), casinos and libraries.
Step four will start when hospitalizations are less than 150 and could see easing of restrictions for indoor entertainment centres, conferences and trade shows, performance activities (e.g. singing, dancing, wind instruments), outdoor sporting events, wedding ceremonies and events, funeral receptions, workplaces, indoor concerts and sports, festivals, day camps and overnight camps. The working from home restriction is also active until this step.
The three-week re-evaluation window will be used for each step.
Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times