Alberta has implemented a mask mandate along with further incentives for residents to get vaccinated as the Delta variant surges among the unvaccinated across the province.
On Friday morning, after weeks of not addressing the province, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro held a press conference announcing a provincial mask mandate will kick in again on Saturday morning at 8 a.m.
Anyone in an indoor public space or a workplace will need to wear a mask unless there are workstations where physical distancing or adequate physical barriers are possible.
Also, as of Saturday Sept. 4 at 8 a.m., restaurants, cafés, bars, pubs, nightclubs, and other licensed establishments will be required to end alcohol service at 10 p.m. although they can stay open later.
The premier said the pandemic is impacting unvaccinated Albertans at a much higher rate than those who have received their vaccinations.
"For the love of God, please get vaccinated now," Kenney pleaded, adding those who are unvaccinated are 50 to 60 times more likely to be hospitalized.
“This is essentially now a crisis of the unvaccinated,” Kenney said.
“You are putting yourself at risk and the health-care system at risk.”
The province is asking those who haven't been vaccinated to limit their social contacts in indoor settings to close contacts of only two cohort families, up to a maximum of 10 people.
For Albertans who are currently unvaccinated who decide to get the vaccine, they will receive a $100 pre-loaded debit card from the province as an incentive to get their dose. The incentive is valid between Sept. 3 and Oct. 14.
Kenney said the modelling the province looked at when they lifted restrictions relied on more people getting the vaccination and as a result, the Delta variant is surging through the unvaccinated population. The vaccines are protecting those who have received their doses, but Albertans who are unvaccinated are passing the virus through the population and putting a strain on the health-care system.
As a result, non-essential surgeries will be delayed and postponed across the province.
Alberta is also recommending that employers pause their plans to have staff return to work and instead continue with work-from-home measures. If employees are working on location, employees must mask for all indoor settings, except in workstations or where two-metre physical distancing or adequate physical barriers are in place.
Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette