Indoor gatherings banned, junior, senior high school students sent home

·3 min read

Alberta is now under a public health emergency declaration, with various new province-wide restrictions affecting social gatherings, school and businesses, some starting as early as Nov. 24.

Areas with enhanced measures such as the County of Grande Prairie and the towns and village within it are also subject to tougher restrictions as COVID-19’s second wave continues.

“I’m sure (the restrictions) are quite disappointing and discouraging for many people, but in the same breath it’s for a short time,” said county reeve Leanne Beaupre.

Restrictions will apply for the next three weeks, premier Jason Kenney said during Tuesday’s press conference.

“I think they tried to find the balance between bringing the numbers down and recognizing people still need to work and continue to have the economy operate,” Beaupre said.

“A total lockdown would be devastating to many people, including in the County of Grande Prairie.”

Kenney cited a need to avoid overloading the health care system as a reason for the measures.

Throughout the province, indoor social gatherings are banned and outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, according to the new restrictions.

Additionally, festivals and events can’t go forward for three weeks, according to the government.

Wedding and funeral ceremonies are limited to an attendance of 10 and receptions can’t be held.

Non-compliance can result in $1,000 fines, health minister Tyler Shandro said Tuesday.

In enhanced-status areas like the county, churches are now limited to one-third capacity and masks are required.

Across the province, grades 7 to 12 students will be going back to online learning Nov. 30.

Kindergarten to Grade 6 in-person classes will continue until Dec. 18.

The Christmas break has been extended a week, with in-person classes set to resume for both groups Jan. 11.

Kenney justified the move by saying teenagers are likelier to transmit the virus than younger children.

The new measures don’t apply to post-secondary schools, said Christine Myatt, Kenney’s press secretary.

Diploma exams will be optional, including August 2021 diplomas, according to the Alberta government.

In the county and all other enhanced-status areas, banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, concert venues and community centres will close Friday.

Indoor playgrounds and all levels of sport will also close Friday, according to the provincial government.

Retail, grocery stores, pharmacies, farmers markets, theatres, libraries and museums can remain open at 25 per cent capacity.

Restaurants can remain open with a six-person maximum per table, all from a single household, Shandro said Tuesday.

Pools and gyms can remain open but without indoor group fitness activities, a measure the Beaverlodge pool and Crosslink County Sportsplex have already voluntarily implemented.

Barbershops and other personal services as well as hotels and professional services like lawyers and accountants can remain open but are limited to being by appointment.

Provincial mandatory masks for indoor workplaces apply to the Calgary and Edmonton zones only, but the City of Grande Prairie has a mandatory mask bylaw in effect.

County council rejected a mandatory mask bylaw in September.

Beaupre said there’ve been no proposals to revisit the decision.

For having more than 50 cases per 100,000 people, the city and county have been under enhanced status since Nov. 6.

At press time the county has 41 active cases, including five in the west county and 36 in the east and central portions, while the city has 78.

Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News