A state of public health emergency and a host of new restrictions Sept. 15 had Albertans looking for clarification.
The province implemented a two-prong approach to helping ease pressures on Alberta’s beleaguered health care system. Effective Monday, businesses could implement the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) or operate at one-third of fire code capacity. Either way, masks remain a must.
A week on, small businesses are finding their way through the newest set of restrictions and making careful choices going forward.
"I don't want any of my staff to be policing at the door where customers would have to prove anything to come in," said Erin Kyle of Around the Block in Beaverlodge. The store will restrict capacity to the one-third rather than ask for proof of vaccination.
Kyle said that the size of the store will accommodate walk-in patrons though classes held there will have to restrict the number of participants.
"We have had to keep our numbers really low, separate our tables, and everyone has to wear a mask the entire class, which usually is about six hours of wearing."
Typically, eight students will attend a class; that will now be reduced to five.
She said sales were slow on Monday after the new restrictions were put in place.
"I am very thankful that we haven't had to completely shut our doors, as we did the last time," she said.
Meanwhile, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is reporting that 91 per cent of COVID patients in intensive care units were unvaccinated. AHS said 80 per cent of COVID cases in the hospital were unvaccinated (data released Sept. 3).
Businesses using the REP will continue business as usual but will require patrons who are vaccine-eligible to show proof of vaccination or show a privately paid negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours.
Those under age 12 would not need to provide proof of immunization or a negative test to enter a participating business.
"This program would not apply to businesses or entities that need to be accessed for daily living," said the province.
A negative COVID test will need to be from a private company and not AHS to meet the terms of the REP.
AHS tests will be available only to those who are symptomatic or in outbreak situations.
Albertans can access their vaccination info from alberta.ca/CovidRecords and as of Tuesday, from a provincial registry office as well, at no charge.
Month and year of one of vaccine dose is required, as well as AHS number and birth date.
The website does not require registration, unlike the My Alberta Digital ID and MyHealth records app.
Businesses that do not participate in the REP will be required to meet other guidelines.
Outdoor dining only with a maximum of six individuals per table.
Liquor sales only till 10 p.m. and consumption till 11 p.m.
Weddings and funerals:
Indoor ceremonies will be limited to 50 people or 50 per cent of the fire code capacity, whichever is less.
No indoor receptions unless the business is using REP.
All outdoor weddings are limited to 200 people and must follow liquor consumption restrictions.
Retail, entertainment and recreation facilities:
Attendance will be limited to one third; masks and 2-metre physical distancing required.
Adult sports and fitness:
No indoor group or classes is permitted.
One-on-one training and individual training are still allowed; three-metre physical distancing is required.
As of Sept. 20, the province announced 81.4 per cent of Albertans had received their first vaccine dose while 72.8 per cent were fully vaccinated.
"Vaccines are very safe, and they work,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health. "If you haven't got your shot yet, it is critical that you do so now to help protect yourself and our healthcare system."
In the South Peace, as of the end of the day, Sept. 20, the County of Grande Prairie area has 223 active cases, and the city has 534 active cases.
Vaccination rates remain low compared to the rest of the province.
In the west county, 48.4 per cent of eligible people have their first vaccination dose, 52.2 per cent in east county and 53.6 per cent in the city, while 42.1 per cent of the west county is fully vaccinated, 44.8 per cent in east county, and 45.6 per cent in the city.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News