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Schools closing temporarily as Alberta brings in more health restrictions

K-12 moves online; patios and indoor dining closed in most communities
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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced a host of new COVID-19 health measures on Tuesday as case counts in the province continue to climb.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has announced new health restrictions for the majority of the province, including moving all Kindergarten to Grade 12 students online temporarily, closing all in-person dining including patios, and closing all workplaces with COVID-19 outbreaks for 10 days.

Kenney announced the new restrictions Tuesday evening in a short televised speech as Alberta battles back high numbers of COVID-19 cases in the third wave, with numbers surpassing those seen in the winter.

“We have also set a record for the number of Albertans with COVID-19 in intensive care,” Kenney said.

Right now, Alberta has the highest active cases ever seen in the province, with 23,623, and 62.3 per cent, or 14,728 of them, are variants.

“The disease continues to spread at an alarming rate, especially among younger people,” Kenney said.

To battle the rising numbers, the premier said the government must act to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

“We must not and we will not force our doctors and nurses to decide who gets care and who doesn't, and that is why we must act now to stop the spike,” Kenney said.

The restrictions apply to all communities with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people and with 30 or more active cases.

K-12 classes in these communities will move online from May 7 to 25. 

“I know this is a real disruption for both kids and parents," Kenney said. 

The premier said there are currently 80,000 students and staff who are in self-isolation and the school system will soon reach a point where many schools will not be able to operate.

“This two-week reset will allow schools to come back for in classroom instruction, right through to the end of the academic year,” Kenney said.

Effective May 5, outdoor social gatherings must be limited to no more than five people, a drop from the previous 10-person limit, with mandatory social distancing in place the entire time. Indoor gatherings continue to be banned. Indoor fitness must close, and funeral attendance will be reduced from 20 people down to 10. 

Also on May 5, retail services will have to limit their occupancy to 10 per cent of fire code, not including staff, or a minimum of five customers; post-secondary will move online; and places of worship will have to limit attendance to 15 people instead of 15 per cent capacity.

Those who can work from home must do so, Kenney said, and masks are required at all indoor work sites and less workers are distanced from others. Any workplace, except work camps and essential and critical services with COVID-19 transmission of three or more cases will be required by health officials to close for 10 days effective May 5. 

Personal and wellness services including hair salons, tattoo parlors, tanning salons and nail salons will close for three weeks, starting May 10.

Outdoor sports and recreation will be limited to households and close contacts only, Kenney said, and youth and adult performance will be closed starting May 10. 

Health, social and professional services like massage therapy, physicians, dentists accountants and lawyers will remain available but by appointment only, starting May 10.

In-person dining at bars and restaurants, including outdoor patios, will have to close for three weeks, but can remain open for takeout and deliveries, starting May 10.

Hotels and motels can remain open but pools and recreation facilities must close. 

Enhanced enforcement measures

The province is doubling the fine for violating public health measures, from $1,000 up to $2,000, with the maximum fine for serious offences remaining at $100,000. Kenney said people who keep violating public health rules will face stricter enforcement.

“We are introducing a tougher enforcement protocol for repeat offenders, because we will not tolerate those who endanger the health of their fellow Albertans,” Kenney said.

With all the health measures in place, the premier encouraged Albertans to stay home whenever possible.

“If you can stay home, please stay home, at least over the next three weeks. I know all of this is discouraging to hear,” Kenney said.

"Nobody wants to be here, especially after 14 months with multiple waves of this pandemic."

For a full list of restrictions, visit the Province of Alberta's website. 

The premier will be answering questions Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Daily numbers

Across Alberta, another 1,743 were diagnosed in the past 24 hours with 14,585 tests were run for a positivity rate of 12 per cent.

876 variant cases were detected overnight and variants now make up 62.3 per cent, or 14,728, of all 23,623 active cases in the province.

Another nine new deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours, bringing the total deaths to 2,099 since the pandemic began.

There are now 671 people in the hospital, an increase of 13 from the previous day and 150 of those in intensive care, a decrease of four from Monday.

There have been 1,668,455 vaccine doses given out as of May 3, an increase of 28,152 from Tuesday. So far 303,509 Albertans have been fully immunized with both doses.

Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Jennifer Henderson is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Great West Newspapers based in St. Albert, Alta.
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