Alberta imposes new social gathering restrictions after setting daily record for COVID-19 cases
Province brings in new measures after seeing a record 4,477 active cases on Sunday
Alberta brought in new mandatory limits of 15 people at most social gatherings in Edmonton and Calgary on Monday after the province reported 1,440 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, including a record of 572 on Saturday.
The province also had a record 4,477 active cases on Sunday, an increase of 826 from the total seen on Thursday.
A total of seven additional deaths were reported over the three-day period from Friday to Sunday.
"You have heard me say many times that we need to achieve a balance between minimizing the risk of COVID-19 and minimizing the risk of harms of restrictions," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Monday.
"This requires us to keep the spread of COVID-19 manageable. We have now crossed a tipping point and are losing the balance we have been seeking. This weekend's COVID-19 numbers tell the story clearly. We identified on average 480 cases of COVID-19 per day over the weekend."
The new 15-person limits in Calgary and Edmonton apply to gatherings "where people are mixing and mingling," Hinshaw said, such as dinner parties, birthday parties, social events, wedding and funeral receptions, retirement parties and baby showers.
The limit does not apply to dining in restaurants, or to theatres, worship services or wedding and funeral services, she said.
Wedding services and funeral services are already limited to a maximum of 100 people when held outdoors, and 50 people when held indoors.
The new 15-person limit applies to social gatherings held before or after wedding or funeral services — for example, a wedding reception or a reception after a funeral.
Limits will be reassessed in 1 month
"We are following the evidence and implementing a targeted measure that will help reduce transmission and limit the risk of cases growing exponentially in both cities," Hinshaw said. "This 15-person limit is temporary. It will be reassessed after one month and can be lifted if we see our growth rate, or R-value, decline below one, and new case numbers consistently below 100 in each city.
"My sincere hope is that we will see cases decline significantly enough to reassess this approach and lift it within this one-month time."
WATCH | Dr. Hinshaw says Alberta is a tipping point for COVID-19
Two voluntary public health measures will remain in place in Edmonton and will added in Calgary now, she said.
The province strongly recommends that people wear non-medical masks in all indoor work settings, except when they are in cubicles or when they can be safely distanced from others.
It also recommends that people in Edmonton and Calgary limit themselves to no more than three social cohorts.
Meanwhile Wood Buffalo residents are now under a mandatory mask bylaw for the next 30 days. The bylaw was triggered when Wood Buffalo reached 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
A similar bylaw went into effect Monday in the City of Grande Prairie when total active cases within the city and county topped 100.
On Friday, 364 new cases of COVID-19 were reported to Alberta Health. That number jumped to 572 on Saturday and hit 504 on Sunday.
Despite the rising case numbers, hospitalization rates have remained fairly constant.
On Sunday there were 118 people being treated in Alberta hospitals, including 16 in ICU beds.
The most recent deaths were:
- A man in his 100s linked to the outbreak at Millwoods Shepherds Care Centre in Edmonton Zone.
- A woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak at Capital Care Lynnwood in Edmonton Zone.
- A man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Edmonton General Care Centre in Edmonton Zone.
- A woman in her 70s who is linked to the outbreak at Extendicare Eaux Claire in Edmonton Zone.
- A man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Agecare Skypointe in Calgary Zone.
- A man in his 70s linked to the outbreak at Spruce Lodge in Calgary Zone.
- A man in his 60s in Calgary Zone.
The latest regional breakdown on active cases was:
- Edmonton zone: 2,179
- Calgary zone: 1,549
- North zone: 311
- South zone: 255
- Central zone: 162
- Unknown: 21
Active case rate climbing
Back in April, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, active cases in Alberta topped the 3,000 mark only twice.
On April 29, there were 3,009 active cases in the province. The next day, that total peaked at 3,022.
Almost six months later, after a summer lull, active cases climbed above 3,000 again last week, and topped 4,000 on Sunday.
Alberta broke the record for active cases five times in a row last week, and shattered that record on Sunday.
Here are the daily totals:
- Sunday, Oct. 18, 3,147
- Monday, Oct. 19, 3,218
- Tuesday, Oct. 20, 3,379
- Wednesday, Oct. 21, 3,524
- Thursday, Oct. 22, 3,651
- Sunday, Oct. 25, 4,477