Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, Sept. 20

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The restrictions exemption program comes into effect today, allowing some businesses and venues to ask patrons for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to operate largely without health restrictions.

Alberta’s restrictions exemption program goes into effect today

Businesses and venues that are eligible for the restrictions exemption program include restaurants, bars and gyms. They can require that people aged 12 and older show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result to gain entry. (Photo by Dong Kim)

The latest on Alberta’s COVID-19 response:

  • Alberta’s restrictions exemption program (REP) comes into effect today, allowing some businesses and venues to ask patrons for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to operate largely without health restrictions.
  • Operators who are eligible for the program, but opt not to take part, will have to follow measures that include capacity limits and physical distancing (more details are provided below).
  • Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine record became available online Sunday for those looking to print a paper copy.
  • Alternatively, a digital copy of vaccine records is available on the MyHealthRecords smartphone app; however, Albertans who are currently trying to access MyHealthRecords are being warned of long wait times to access the website and app.
  • A QR code for proof of vaccination will be made available in the coming weeks, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said — similar to the vaccine passport systems announced months ago by Quebec and weeks ago by B.C. 
  • Negative COVID-19 tests from Alberta Health are not applicable as part of the “vaccination exemption program,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Thursday. Tests must be privately paid for.
  • On Oct. 25, proof of two doses or a negative test will be required.
  • The leaders of four unions representing thousands of health-care workers are calling on Premier Jason Kenney to ask for help from the military and Red Cross.
  • Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, provided an update on the province’s health-care system Thursday saying the fourth wave has resulted in the sharpest increase of ICU patients since the pandemic began in early 2020. 
  • Kenney said Wednesday the province may run out of staffed intensive care beds within the next 10 days. 
  • Health-care workers have been asked to identify any spaces that can be used as an ICU bed, Yiu said. This includes spaces such as operating rooms, post-anesthesia care units, observation spaces and recovery wards. 

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  • Ontario officials are “having conversations right now” to determine what support the province can provide to help Alberta’s crippled health-care system.
  • B.C. says it won’t be able to take any of Alberta’s intensive care unit patients at a time when that province’s own hospitals are also struggling.
  • Without surge beds, Alberta’s provincial ICU capacity would be at 155 per cent.
  • As of Friday afternoon, Alberta had 19,201 active cases.
  • The premier announced last week that Alberta is once again in a state of public health emergency.
  • Kenney’s government is imposing strict and sweeping measures (see details below) to combat the province’s fourth wave of COVID-19 and stave off the ongoing crisis in the health-care system. The measures include the proof-of-vaccination program.

How the restrictions and exemptions will work:

Some of the broad strokes of the new restrictions include:

As of Sept. 16:

  • Private social gatherings:
    • Indoor private gatherings for vaccine-eligible, fully vaccinated people are limited to a single household plus one other household to a maximum of 10 people, with no restrictions on children under the age of 12.
    • Attendance at any indoor private social gathering is not permitted for vaccine-eligible individuals who are unvaccinated.
    • Outdoor private social gatherings are permitted to a maximum of 200 people, with two-metre physical distancing maintained at all times.
  • Workplaces:
    • Work-from-home measures are mandatory unless the employer has decided a physical presence is required for operational reasons.
  • Places of worship:
    • Must limit attendance to one-third fire code capacity.
    • Face masks will be mandatory and there must be two-metre physical distancing between households or two close contacts for those living alone.
  • Outdoor events:
    • No attendance restrictions, but two-metre physical distancing adhered to.
  • Schools (K-12):
    • Mandatory masking for students in Grades 4 and up, as well as staff and teachers in all grades. Schools that can implement an alternate COVID safety plan can be exempted from mandatory masking.
    • Elementary schools must implement class cohorting.
    • For physical activities in schools, youth aged 18 and under are not required to mask or maintain two-metre distance when engaged in physical activity.
    • There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.
    • Indoor sports/performance/recreation/special interests are permitted with requirements for two-metre physical distancing, where possible.

As of Sept. 20:

  • Restaurants, nightclubs and pubs:
    • Venues that choose to implement the restrictions exemption program can operate as usual when it comes to vaccine-eligible Albertans with proof of vaccination.
    • Otherwise:
      • Outdoor dining only with a maximum of six individuals per table (one household or two close contacts for those living alone).
      • Liquor sales to end at 10 p.m. and consumption at 11 p.m. 
  • Weddings and funerals:
    • Hosting facilities that choose to implement the restrictions exemption program can operate as usual when it comes to vaccine-eligible Albertans with proof of vaccination.
    • Otherwise:
      • All indoor ceremonies and services are limited to 50 attendees or 50 per cent fire code capacity, whichever is less.
      • No indoor receptions are permitted.
      • All outdoor ceremonies and services for weddings and funerals must be limited to 200 attendees.
  • Entertainment and recreation facilities such as museums, movie theatres and casinos:
    • Hosting facilities that choose to implement the restrictions exemption program can operate as usual when it comes to vaccine-eligible Albertans with proof of vaccination.
    • Otherwise:
      • Limited to one-third fire code capacity, attendees are only permitted to attend with their household or two close contacts for those living alone.
      • People must be masked and keep two-metre physical distancing between households.
  • Adult sports, fitness and recreation:
    • Facilities that implement the restrictions exemption program can operate as usual when it comes to vaccine-eligible Albertans with proof of vaccination.
    • Otherwise:
      • No indoor group classes or activities are permitted.
      • One-on-one training or individual workouts are permitted but three-metre physical distancing is required.
      • No contact between players; no indoor competitions except where case-by-case vaccine exemptions have been granted.
  • Retail and shopping malls, places of worship, hotels and personal services are some examples of venues and businesses that are not eligible to participate in the program.
  • They must follow health restrictions that include physical distancing and capacity limits.
  • A full list of restrictions and exemptions is available on the government’s website

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • Numbers from the weekend are expected to be reported by the province on Monday, and will be published online by CBC Calgary and CBC Edmonton.
  • Alberta reported 2,020 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, out of 17,327 tests. 
  • Alberta reported 18 more deaths from COVID on Friday. A total of 2,523 Albertans have died of COVID-19. 
  • The positivity rate was 10.6 per cent.
  • The province is leading the country by a wide margin in daily new COVID cases and active cases. 
  • There were 19,201 active cases across Alberta, the highest count in the country.
  • By comparison, Ontario, a province with more than three times the population, has one-third the number of active cases.
  • There were 911 people being treated in hospital, 215 of whom were in intensive care beds. 
  • Of those in hospital, 78 per cent are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, Hinshaw said Thursday. 
  • The R-value, which represents the average number of people infected by each infected person, was 1.12 (with a confidence interval of 1.1 to 1.14) for Aug. 30 to Sept. 5.
  • 255,834 Albertans are considered to have recovered from COVID-19.​​​​
  • Critically ill patients are now regularly being airlifted out of the Red Deer hospital as it fills up with COVID-19 patients. The number of COVID patients in the hospital there jumped 65 per cent in the last week.
  • The province is preparing to activate its triage protocol, which means health-care workers will have to decide which patients are given potentially life-saving interventions like ventilators.
  • Alberta Health Services said Friday that the only surgeries happening in the province are those that must be done within a three-day window.
  • Alberta Children’s Hospital has reduced surgeries by 75 per cent to contend with the surge of COVID-19 patients in ICU. 
  • The Calgary Board of Education is calling on the province to implement additional COVID-19 measures in schools, after more than 350 COVID-19 cases were reported in the first few weeks.
  • After cancelling in-person learning for the rest of this week in the wake of the new provincial rules, the University of Calgary announced Thursday that its on-campus classes will resume Sept. 20.
  • Both SAIT and Mount Royal University (MRU) in Calgary likewise announced late Thursday that they will be returning to in-person learning.

The latest on vaccines:

  • The Alberta premier said COVID-19 vaccine bookings have nearly tripled in the province since he announced the new passport system.
  • According to Alberta Health, 28,158 doses were administered at Alberta Health Services clinics and pharmacies on Thursday compared to 9,750 on Wednesday.
  • As of Friday, 61 per cent of all Albertans (or 71.8 per cent of those eligible) have received two doses of a COVID vaccine, and 68.1 per cent of all Albertans (or 80.1 per cent of those eligible) have received at least one dose.
  • Those are still the lowest numbers in the country, save for Nunavut. Canada-wide, 68.9 per cent of the total population (or 78.8 per cent of those eligible) have received two doses of vaccine, and 74.9 per cent of the total population (or 85.6 per cent of those eligible) received at least one dose, according to the CBC’s vaccine tracker.
  • Hinshaw says pregnant people are at high risk of very serious illness and are urging them to get their COVID-19 vaccinations. An unvaccinated pregnant Alberta woman died from a COVID-related infection following admission into intensive care units, sources familiar with the death say.
  • Alberta Health Services announced on Sept. 7 it would require all employees and contracted health-care providers — including physicians — to be fully vaccinated.
  • The Alberta government is making a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine available for immunocompromised Albertans and for all seniors living in congregate care facilities.
  • In addition, mRNA doses — that’s Pfizer or Moderna — will be made available to Albertans travelling to a jurisdiction that does not accept visitors vaccinated with AstraZeneca, Covishield, or mixed doses.

See which regions are being hit hardest:

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as reported by the province on Friday.

  • Edmonton zone: 5,467.
  • Calgary zone: 5,468.
  • North zone: 3,237.
  • Central zone: 3,080.
  • South zone: 1,919.
  • Unknown: 30.

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

With files from The Canadian Press

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