Social gatherings in RMWB capped at 15 as Alberta's COVID-19 cases continue rising

·2 min read

Alberta has limited social gatherings to 15-people in communities on the municipal watch list, which includes the Wood Buffalo region. In Edmonton and Calgary, people are being asked not to hold any private gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Premier Jason Kenney announced the new restrictions during a Friday press conference. However, he stopped short of considering a second lockdown similar to what was seen this past spring.

“A lockdown constitutes a massive invasion of the exercise of people’s fundamental rights and a massive impact on not only their personal liberties, but their ability to put food on the table, to sustain themselves financially,” he said. “That has huge downstream effects.”

The new restrictions applies to social events such as parties, baby showers, banquets, and receptions for weddings and funerals. The restrictions do not impact ceremonies for funerals and weddings, though.

Although Alberta slowed the spread of COVID-19 with voluntary public health measures introduced in October, Kenney said these measures are no longer working.

Roughly 40 per cent of positive COVID-19 cases in Edmonton and Calgary are now linked to household transmission and private gatherings.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said most outbreaks in places such as continuing care centres and schools have originated in the community. Rising COVID-19 rates have also caused Alberta Health Services to postpone or cancel non-essential surgeries. Kenney said the new measures are meant to stop this trend from worsening.

“To be blunt, all that we have accomplished together is now at risk,” said Kenney. “We must take this very seriously because if these numbers continue to grow at the current pace, they will put our healthcare system at risk, they will put our economy at risk and our loved ones at risk.”

Beginning Saturday, AHS will return to daily COVID-19 updates. The website that shows local COVID-19 cases has had problems uploading new data for individual communities and has not been updated since Nov. 4.

“We can keep kids in school, we can keep businesses open, we can keep people employed and we can preserve lives and livelihoods but we must all make trade-offs,” said Kenney. “If we work together, this temporary step can and will bring our numbers down. When that happens, we can ease this measure.”

Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today