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Alberta relaxes COVID-19 rules

Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Wednesday that Alberta is relaxing its rules regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said last week that as the number of people who have been vaccinated rises, the need for public health restrictions diminishes.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said as a result, Alberta is relaxing many of the COVID-19 rules, including those related to quarantine, isolation and masks.

“I know this will feel like a dramatic shift for many,” Hinshaw told reporters on Wednesday.

With close to 75.6 per cent of eligible Albertans having received at least one dose of vaccine, and 64.3 per cent fully vaccinated, the province is in a different place than when the rules were put in place.

“COVID-19 is not something we need to fear, but it is something we need to respect,” Hinshaw said. “COVID is not over. COVID is still a serious virus.”

Hinshaw said COVID-19 will not be eliminated, so people have to learn to live with the virus.

Hinshaw said the COVID-19 rules will mirror those for other respiratory viruses.

Hinshaw reported 194 new cases in Alberta, with 84 people in hospital and 18 in intensive care units.

“Cases have risen recently almost entirely among those who have not been vaccinated,” Hinshaw said. “Vaccine dramatically reduces the risk of severe outcomes and the risk of infection.”

Hinshaw urged people to get both doses of vaccine, noting The Delta variant is spread easily.

“Having two doses of vaccine has never been more important,” Hinshaw said.

The following changes took effect July 29:

• Quarantine for close contacts shifted to recommended, from mandatory.

Isolation for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and for confirmed positive cases is still required.

• People who have not been immunized who have been exposed to COVID-19 should monitor for symptoms and seek testing if they become symptomatic.

• Anyone who is not fully immunized should avoid high-risk locations such as continuing care facilities and crowded indoor spaces if they have been in contact with a case in the past 14 days.

• All positive cases will continue to be notified.

Contact tracers will no longer notify close contacts of exposure but people who test positive are asked to inform their close contacts.

• Contact tracers will continue to investigate cases that are in high-risk settings such as acute and continuing care facilities.

• Outbreak management and identification will focus on high-risk locations, including continuing and acute care facilities and high-risk workplaces.

Community outbreaks with a surge in cases leading to severe outcomes will also be addressed.

• Asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended.

Testing will continue to be available for individuals who are symptomatic.

• Mandatory masking remains in acute and continuing care facilities, publicly accessible transit, taxis and ride-share.

The province will lift mandatory masking orders Aug. 16.

Isolation following a positive COVID-19 test result will no longer be required as of Aug. 16, but strongly recommended.

People with symptoms of any respiratory infection should still remain at home.

Testing will be available for people with symptoms through assessment centres until Aug. 31 and, after that, will be in primary care settings including physicians’ offices.

Universal masking will not be required in schools once students return.

“I want to end today with a call to arms,” Hinshaw said. “Please get vaccinated.”

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