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Alberta premier declares public health emergency

Premier Jason Kenney declared a public health emergency Wednesday and restored measures — including masks and limits on gatherings — to slow the spread of COVID-19.

With hospitals and intensive care units straining under the burden of more than 1,200 daily new cases, opposition leader Rachel Notley said the government’s response is too little, too late.

“This appalling death toll and the human suffering of those infected and those denied critical health care was preventable,” Notley said. “This is a crisis of the premier’s own making.”

The fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is raging throughout Alberta, with 18,421 active cases, 877 people in hospital and 218 in ICU.

The death toll in Alberta reached 2,495.

There are 1,805 cases in the south zone with 86 in hospital and 23 in ICU.

Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek each have 56 active cases, Claresholm has 37 and Crowsnest Pass has 15.

Cardston-Kainai has 129 active cases, the County of Lethbridge has 121, High River has 67 and Vulcan County has 25.

“We are facing an emergency that requires immediate action to save lives and prevent an ongoing crisis in our health care system,” Kenney said during a news conference.

Mandatory work-from-home measures were put in place effective Thursday unless a physical presence is required for operational effectiveness.

“After 19 months of COVID-19 we are all exhausted by the way this disease has suspended our lives,” Kenney said. “We all wish that we could turn the page and leave COVID in the past.”

“But this disease is an invisible and ever-changing foe and we have no choice but to face the fourth wave of this grave threat head-on.”

Kenney said it is possible Alberta will run out of health care staff and intensive care beds as early as Friday.

“How long this situation lasts and how bad it becomes is now up to each and every one of us,” Kenney said.

Kenney said to prevent an ongoing crisis Alberta must maximize its health care capacity, reduce transmission of COVID-19 and get as many people vaccinated as possible.

Among other public health measures implemented Wednesday, indoor private gatherings for vaccine-eligible, fully vaccinated individuals 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 indoor private social gatherings is not permitted for vaccine-eligible people who are unvaccinated.

Outdoor private social gatherings are permitted to a maximum of 200 people, with two-metre physical distancing maintained at all times.

Places of worship must limit attendance to one-third fire code capacity. Face masks are mandatory and there must be two-metre physical distancing between households or two close contacts for those living alone.

There are no restrictions for outdoor events but two-metre physical distancing must be in place.

The province implemented mandatory masks for students from Grade 4-12 as well as staff and teachers.

Elementary schools must implement class cohorting.

Indoor sports, performances, recreation and special interests are permitted with requirements for physical distancing, where possible.

Indoor activities are permitted, with requirements for physical distancing, masking and symptom screening for participants.

Spectator attendance is limited to one-third fire code capacity. Attendees must be masked and observe physical distancing.

As of Monday restaurants can offer outdoor dining only with a maximum of six individuals per table.

Liquor sales end at 10 p.m. and consumption at 11 p.m.

Indoor weddings and funerals are limited to 50 people or 50 per cent of fire code capacity, whichever is less. No indoor receptions are permitted.

All outdoor funerals and weddings and funerals are limited to 200 guests.

Attendance at retail, entrainment and recreation facilities limited to one-third fire code capacity and people are permitted to attend with their household or two close contacts for those living alone, and must be masked and observe physical distancing.

Indoor adult group classes or activities are not permitted.

Adult one-on-one training or individual workouts are permitted but three-metre physical distancing is required.

Starting Monday vaccine-eligible people will be required to provide government-issued proof of immunization or a negative privately paid COVID-19 test from within the previous 72 hours to access a variety of participating social, recreational and discretionary events and businesses throughout the province.

Albertans can access copies of their COVID-19 vaccination records through MyHealth Records.

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