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

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 devastating fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit 20,614 active cases on Monday — far more than twice as many as any other province or territory and the first time the numbers have surpassed 20,000 in the province since mid-May. 
  • The province's restrictions exemption program (REP) came 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.
  • Premier Jason Kenney introduced the program last Wednesday when he declared Alberta was once again in a state of public health emergency.
  • Kenney's government imposed strict and sweeping measures (see details below) to combat the fourth wave of COVID-19 and stave off the ongoing crisis in the health-care system.
  • 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).

WATCH | Trying to simplify Alberta's 'restriction exemption program'

Don't call it a vaccine passport. But whatever you call it, here's how it will impact your plans for the foreseeable future.

2 months ago
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There is a long list of dos and don'ts if you're venturing out to exercise, eat out, or enjoy a show. Alberta's restriction exemption program is at the forefront, but there are many lingering questions about how it will work. 4:36
  • 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.
  • Starting Tuesday, Albertans will be able to visit a local registry agent to request a printed version of their vaccination card at no cost. They will need to provide the month and year of any dose of vaccination, their Alberta Personal Health Number and their date of birth.
  • 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. 
  • On Oct. 25, proof of two doses or a negative test will be required.
  • Those who want to show a negative COVID-19 test for the proof of vaccination program must not be from Alberta Health Services or Alberta Precision Laboratories. Instead, they must be a be privately paid, Health Canada-approved rapid antigen, rapid PCR or lab-based PCR test completed within the previous 72 hours.
  • The leaders of four unions representing thousands of health-care workers are calling on Kenney to ask for help from the military and Red Cross.
  • "There are no more nurses in our province who can be deployed. There are no more paramedics. There are no more respiratory therapists. There are no more support staff," states the Sept. 18 letter to Kenney, which implores him to make a formal request for help from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • "The tank is empty. The well is dry."
  • Kenney said last Wednesday the province might run out of staffed intensive care beds within the next 10 days. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Ontario Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott confirmed Friday that Ontario would be providing assistance to help Alberta's crippled health-care system as it battles its deadly fourth wave of COVID-19. 
  • 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.

How the restrictions and exemptions 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:

  • There were 20,614 active cases across Alberta, the highest count in the country and the first time the numbers have surpassed 20,000 since mid-May.
  • By comparison, Ontario, a province with more than three times the population, has one-third the number of active cases.
  • Alberta reported 4,633 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend:
    • 1,605 new cases out of 16,409 tests on Friday.
    • 1,592 new cases out of 16,529 tests on Saturday.
    • 1,436 new cases out of 13,389 tests on Sunday.
  • Alberta reported 22 more deaths from COVID on Monday. A total of 2,545 Albertans have died of COVID-19. 
  • The positivity rate was 10.8 per cent.
  • The province is leading the country by a wide margin in daily new COVID cases and active cases. 
  • There were 954 people being treated in hospital216 of whom were in intensive care beds. 
  • Of those in hospital, 82 per cent are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, Hinshaw said Thursday. 
  • Province-wide, the R-value was 1.04 (with a confidence interval of 1.02 to 1.06) as of Sept. 13-19. In Edmonton, the R-value is 0.97, while in Calgary it's 0.94 . The rest of Alberta has an R-value of 1.15
  • 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:

  • As of Monday, 61.5 per cent of the province's total population has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or 72.3 per cent of those eligible. Out of the province's total population, 68.9 per cent have received at least one dose, or 81 per cent of those eligible.
  • Those are still the lowest numbers in the country, save for Nunavut. Canada-wide, 75.2 per cent of the total population have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 69.4 of the total population is fully vaccinated, according to the CBC's vaccine tracker.
  • 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, as of Monday 59,009 vaccines doses had been administered over the past three days, including 34,595 first doses.
  • 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: 5,615.
  • Calgary zone: 5,597.
  • North zone: 3,723.
  • Central zone: 3,551.
  • South zone: 2,085.
  • Unknown: 43.

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

With files from The Canadian Press

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