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Alberta releases COVID-19 guidelines for sectors that may reopen this week

With the possible start date for Stage 1 of the relaunch plan expected later this week, the province released a new online tool to help businesses prepare for reopening.

New online tool intended to help prepare businesses for Stage 1 relaunch

Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided her latest update on COVID-19 on Monday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

With the possible start date for Stage 1 of the relaunch plan expected later this week, the province released a new online tool Monday to help businesses prepare for reopening.

Tanya Fir, minister of economic development, trade and tourism, released the new online tool to help businesses that may be allowed to reopen as early as Thursday. 

Though some business owners were calling for guidelines last week, the province waited until Monday to release the online tool because it wanted to consult with stakeholders, businesses, industry associations, other provinces, Fir said at a news conference.

"We wanted to find the right balance between releasing the information on the website in a timely fashion but making sure that the information on there was effective and useful," she said.

"With respect to personal protective equipment, PPE, as part of the update to the website tomorrow, we will be providing a list of PPE providers for businesses to contact if need be, and also the guidelines for each of the sectors and give advice around … what type of PPE we are recommending for each sector."

Alberta reported two more COVID-19 deaths in continuing-care centres on Monday, and 47 new cases of the illness.

The total number of active cases in the province is 1,524, with 4,659 people listed as recovered.

The province's online tool has guidelines to help prepare businesses for stage one relaunch, including:

  • Day camps
  • Daycare and out-of-school care
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Museums and art galleries
  • Outdoor recreation
  • Places of worship
  • Restaurants
  • Retail

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the final decision on whether to move to Stage 1 has not yet been made.

Premier Jason Kenney said last week the emergency management committee of cabinet would meet on Monday, and would likely release details about the timing of the next step on Tuesday.

"Hospitalizations and ICU admissions are down, recovered case numbers are up, and I am encouraged to see fewer daily new cases than even one week ago," Hinshaw said.

"We continue to see cases of community transmission, and people have asked me how we can reopen our province when the virus is still spreading in our communities.

'Much has changed in our society'

The first restrictions were put place in early March, after one case of community transmission had been reported, she said.

"Much has changed in our society since then, and it will remain different for a long time still. Our societal norms around hygiene and physical distancing are different today."

People are in the habit of washing their hands thoroughly and often, she said, and are accustomed to maintaining physical distance.

"These will remain habits and will, in fact, become even more important as we leave our homes more often," Hinshaw said.

The province has implemented measures to try to protect residents in continuing-care facilities across the province, she said, and has enhanced lab capacity, and the ability to trace contacts and contain outbreaks.

"With this capacity, even though we will continue to see some cases of COVID-19 in our communities, we have the testing capacity and contact-tracing ability to quickly identify new cases and prevent further spread much more promptly than we could at the start of this pandemic," she said.

Hinshaw said the online tool is intended to help businesses let their customers know what is required of them and to help everyone reinforce the social norms already in place.

"It is not expected that in a retail store there be someone with a thermometer checking temperatures at the door," she said. "That is not the expectation. But the expectation is that retail stores would reinforce the social norms in whatever manner is appropriate within that setting."

Stores will also need some way to check their employees each day for signs of illness, and if they are sick have them go home and be tested, if appropriate, she said.

Plan vague, NDP says

NDP labour critic Christina Gray said businesses need a better plan from the government and financial support to implement the measures needed to reopen safely.

"Jason Kenney and the UCP promised to support businesses struggling to stay afloat during this pandemic," Gray said in a statement. "Instead he delivered a rushed plan, with vague, non-binding guidelines and zero support for implementation. How exactly are businesses supposed to afford these measures, measures that could potentially save lives?"

Many small businesses are already struggling to pay rent, she said.

"It's three days until this reopening plan takes effect, and businesses still have no recommended source for acquiring PPE, or help paying for it. This plan is underdeveloped, unfunded and leaves Albertans unprepared."

The province's website also includes guidance documents for sectors currently allowed to operate under public health orders, including:

  • Disability service providers
  • Farmers markets
  • Golf course operators
  • Health non-essential services
  • Health sector PPE guidelines
  • Homeless shelters
  • Industrial work camps
  • Private/municipal campgrounds

Seventy-three people were in hospital on Monday, with 12 in intensive-care beds.

Alberta continues to report 117 deaths, despite two new deaths announced Monday. That's because two previous deaths attributed to COVID-19 were not caused by the disease, Hinshaw said.

The regional breakdown of cases was:

  • Calgary zone: 1,011 active, 3,131 recovered.
  • South zone: 338 active, 809 recovered.
  • Edmonton zone: 53 active, 437 recovered.
  • North zone: 27 active, 181 recovered.
  • Central zone:  17 active,  81 recovered.
  • Unknown: 5 active, 19 recovered.

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