Some COVID-19 restrictions eased, school reporting changes

·2 min read

The Alberta government has relaxed some of the public health measures enacted in December to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Despite these changes, Alberta’s case numbers and hospitalizations remain high, and continue to pose a threat to healthcare system capacity, said Health Minister Tyler Shandro, during a Jan. 14 government press conference.

“When we introduced new mandatory health measures in December, we did so with a goal to limiting as much in-person interaction as possible, and the point was to minimize exposure to the virus,” said Shandro. “Today, we can’t entirely ease up on this goal, but we can make small adjustments to provide Albertans with some limited activities.”

As of Jan. 18, outdoor social gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed. Personal and wellness services are also now allowed to reopen, by appointment only. This includes a variety of businesses, including hair salons, barber shops, aesthetics, manicure and pedicure businesses, reflexology, piercing and tattoo shops, among others.

Maximum funeral ceremony attendance was increased to 20 people, but funeral receptions are still prohibited.

Trends of the virus will be assessed to determine if restrictions can be eased further. “I want to stress to everyone that while we are actively looking at what restrictions we are able to ease, over the weeks ahead, in order to make any further changes we need everyone’s cooperation to stay within the rules,” said Shandro. “If we continue to see case rates, hospitalizations and our ICU admissions continue to slow down and go down, we will continue to open things up.”

School reporting changes

The province is also changing how cases in schools are reported. As of Jan. 18, a school with one to four cases of COVID-19 will receive an “alert” status, while if more than five cases are detected, a school will receive “outbreak” status. There will be two categories of outbreaks, for schools with five to nine cases and for 10 or more cases, and the “watch” status will no longer be used.

This change is to terminology only and will not affect how AHS is supporting schools or responding to cases. The province will continue to report schools on the COVID-19 school map when two or more cases are identified. Parents will still be notified if there is a single case in their child’s school.

As of Jan. 18, across the province there are two outbreaks (both five to nine cases) and 29 alerts in schools, according to the COVID-19 school status map. However, none of these schools are in Strathmore or Wheatland County.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times