Alberta News

Restrictions on indoor fitness, libraries eased in Alberta

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney eases restrictions on low-intensity indoor fitness for adults and libraries, while delaying other parts of the second step in the provincial reopening plan. (Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)

Low-intensity fitness activities can resume in Alberta and libraries can reopen as the province dips its toe into the second phase of its  reopening plan.

On Monday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, along with Minister of  Health Tyler Shandro and Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr.  Deena Hinshaw, announced the province would be easing some restrictions,  while delaying other parts of the second phase to a later date. 

“Today, I am here to announce that Alberta is ready to safely and  cautiously enter Step 2 of our path forward. I want to thank every  Albertan who has responsibly observed (the public health) measures  through Step 1 over the past several weeks to protect lives and our  health-care system in the process,” said Kenney. 

The premier said it hasn’t been easy, but due to the sacrifices  Albertans have made, the province is able to move forward to the next  step of reopening. 

Effective immediately, libraries will be able to open at 15 per cent  of their fire-code capacity, excluding staff, and low-intensity  individual and group workouts for adults will be able to start up  again. 

But while the province is prepared to ease restrictions on some parts  of the second step, others have been delayed out of precaution. The  reopening of banquet and community halls, conference centres has been  delayed along with the easing of measures on retail and hotels. 

Kenney said while some data shows the province is doing well in  slowing the spread of COVID-19, there are other measurements that are  concerning. 

The number of new cases in the province has plateaued, rather than  continuing on a downward trend, and the testing positivity rate has  risen. There is also a small increase in the daily number of variant  cases, which Kenney said is “worrisome.”

“I know that many Albertans want us to relax many more health  measures today. But we cannot and we must not allow exponential growth  to start to take hold, driven by these new more contagious variants, as  we’ve seen in many countries around the world, because to do so would  end up in weeks jeopardizing our healthcare system,” said Kenney.

The premier urged Albertans to continue to practice vigilance around  indoor social gatherings, as a large per cent of all spread happens in  those settings

By the numbers

The premier said hospitalizations have dropped drastically, from  around 950 down to 257 on Monday, and cases in long-term care and  designated supportive living facilities has also dropped significantly. 

“Thankfully, active cases in our long-term care facilities have now  declined by more than 95 per cent from December’s peak, and the active  cases in designated-supportive living facilities for seniors have  dropped by over 92 per cent,” said Kenney. 

Hospitalizations are now below the threshold required to reopen  everything under Step 2, but the province will take a cautious approach, said Kenney.

On Monday, there were another 291 cases of COVID-19 identified in the  province after 5,900 tests were run for a positivity rate of 4.9 per  cent. 

There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 236 schools or 10 per cent of schools in the province. 

Since Jan. 11, 890 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in schools. 

Another 37 cases of the variant have been identified in the province, bringing the total up to 457. 

The R-value – the number of infections caused from a person who has  COVID-19 – is sitting at 1.01, with Edmonton at 1.16, Calgary at 1.01  and the rest of the province at 0.94. 

There are currently 257 people in the hospital with COVID-19 and 48 in the ICU. The province reported two more deaths on Monday.

Vaccines

There have been 235,000 doses of vaccine given out in Alberta with  88,000 people fully immunized. It has been less than a week since the  province opened vaccines up to those living in the community who are  over the age of 75 and have seen more than 123,000 people sign up. In  the first five days, a first dose has been given out to 35,000 in the  group, with another 8,000 given out on Monday. 

Hinshaw thanked Albertans for their patience with the online booking system and long lines. 

“I want to thank the family and friends who helped to navigate the online booking system,” said Hinshaw. 

Kenney said Albertans will have to stay vigilant with their COVID-19  public health measures until vaccines can be more widely distributed. 

“The game changer is the vaccine.”

By Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/St. Albert Gazette