Skyrocketing cases of Omicron have spurred the government to enact new regulations in Alberta, changing isolation requirements to better reflect current trends and giving residents of Pincher Creek, along with many other communities, greater access to rapid self-testing kits.
According to Mayor Don Anderberg, rapid test screening was made mandatory for all staff at the Pincher Creek Community Early Learning Centres last week, a decision that he says all workers are on board with so far.
This will be followed by mandatory testing for all Town of Pincher Creek employees. In December, council discussed introducing this regulation on Jan. 17, but this date may be subject to change.
Rapid tests available en masse at the Pincher Creek hospital — one pack per every person in the household — are considered a replacement for PCR tests, providing the person does not have medical risk factors or work in a high-priority work setting like a caregiving centre, correctional facility, or shelter.
All individuals with positive test results must isolate for a required number of days or until their symptoms have fully resolved. Fully vaccinated individuals are expected to isolate for a minimum of five days and partially or non-vaccinated persons for a week and a half.
Those isolating for five days must wear a mask in all public spaces where person-to-person contact is likely for five additional days after their quarantine ends.
Persons with symptoms who test positive are expected to self-isolate. Persons without symptoms who test positive are recommended to test again 24 hours later to see if the result has changed and are required to isolate only if results remain consistent.
Kristen Dykstra, public health inspector for Alberta Health Services, reported to town council members at their Jan. 5 committee of the whole meeting. At that time, the province’s positivity rate had reached a record high of 33 per cent.
This record has continued to be broken almost daily. A pandemic high was reached Friday with a positivity rate of 41.2 per cent, with 38.7 being the average over the past week.
Services, says research revealed that 85.9 per cent of a batch of positive PCR tests, representing over a quarter of tests provincewide, were positive for Omicron.
Southern Alberta currently has 2,446 active cases, with 30 individuals in hospital and four in intensive care.
Local numbers have climbed substantially over the holidays. Between Dec. 21 and Jan. 10, there were 102 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in the Pincher Creek area and 44 in Crowsnest Pass.
Pincher Creek had three active cases and Crowsnest Pass two on Dec. 21. Those numbers are now 88 and 40.
For maximum safety, all Albertans should focus on getting a third shot, says Dykstra, adding that Moderna boosters are currently being distributed to adults over 30 and Pfizer boosters for people ages 12 to 29.
Residents over four years of age can receive their first dose. As of Jan. 10, 39.3 per cent of children ages five to 11 have received their first vaccine.
Children have returned to in-person classes and although the Alberta government has no plans to transition fully to online learning, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says it would consider doing so temporarily if outbreaks occur.
Rapid tests and medical-grade masks will be distributed to students, through their schools, for further protection.
Virtual learning resources for students in grades 4 to 9 are available online through the e-Tutoring Hub. Consisting of virtual videos, the program focuses on improving numeracy and literacy skills, addressing learning gaps brought about by the pandemic. Later in the year, it will be expanded to include online tutoring and a greater variety of subjects offered to additional grades.
Capacity restrictions for large events have capped venues of more than 1,000 at 50 per cent, and those between 500 and 1,000 at 500 people. Food and drink is not permitted.
Dancing, darts and billiards are prohibited at restaurants, bars and pubs, and businesses with class A and C liquor licences must stop liquor service by 11 p.m. and close by 12:30. Groupings must be limited to 10 persons or less per table at establishments that have opted into the Restrictions Exemption Program.
Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze