CALGARY — As the COVID situation continues to get worse in Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney says the province is adopting a proof of vaccination program for certain discretionary services.
“No one will be compelled to get vaccinated against their wishes and a negative test option will be offered as an alternative,” said Kenney. “But, with unvaccinated patients overwhelming our hospitals, this is now the only responsible choice that we have.”
On top of the proof of vaccination program, the province has reinstated public health restrictions and declared a state of public health emergency.
WATCH: Premier Jason Kenney is joined by Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw to provide an update on COVID-19 in Alberta.
Restrictions beginning Sept. 16:
- A mandatory work from home order will be put in place unless a physical presence is required.
Private social gatherings:
- Indoor private gatherings for vaccine eligible, fully vaccinated people are now limited to a single household pulse one other household to a maximum of 10 people.
- Attendance at any indoor private event is not permitted for vaccine eligible people who are unvaccinated.
- Outdoor private gatherings are permitted to a maximum of 200 people.
- Mandatory masking for students in grades 4 and up, including all teachers and staff in all grades.
- Elementary schools to implement class cohorting.
- Indoor activities are permitted, with requirements for two-metre physical distancing and masking where possible, and symptom screening for participants.
- Youth aged 18 and under are not required to mask or maintain physical distancing during a physical activity, such as a team sport.
- Spectator attendance is limited to one-third fire code capacity. Attendees must be masked and ensure physical distancing between different households or an individual who lives alone and their two close contacts.
- There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.
Restrictions coming Sept. 20:
- Outdoor dining only with a maximum of six individuals per table (one household or two close contacts for those living alone).
- Liquor sales and consumption restrictions (10 p.m. sales and 11 p.m. consumption) apply.
- Restaurants are eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program.
Weddings and funerals:
- 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. Outdoor receptions are required to follow liquor sales and consumption restrictions (i.e., sales end at 10 p.m. and consumption ends by 11 p.m.).
Retail, entertainment and recreation facilities:
- Attendance is limited to one-third fire code capacity and attendees are only permitted to attend with their household or two close contacts for those living alone. Attendees must be masked and have two-metre physical distancing between households.
Adult sport, fitness, performance, and recreation:
- Indoor activities:
– 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; indoor competitions are paused except where vaccine exemptions have been granted.
– These facilities and programs are eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program. Specific exemptions may also be granted on a case-by-case basis.
- There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.
Restrictions Exemption Program
Beginning on Sept. 20, those who are vaccinated and those who can provide a negative COVID-19 test from within 72 hours will be able to access a number of events and services throughout Alberta.
Businesses that implement the Restrictions Exemption Program will be able to operate as usual, as long as they only serve those who have provided proof that they are either fully vaccinated or have tested negative within the last three days.
The province says as they work through the transitional period, a proof of a single vaccine dose will be accepted from Sept. 20 to Oct. 25 as long as that single dose was from more than two weeks prior.
WATCH: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announces the implementation of a vaccine passport and apologizes for claiming the pandemic was coming to an end.
An overwhelmed healthcare system
As of Wednesday afternoon, 24 more people had died from COVID-19 in the province, with 218 people currently being treated in the province’s ICUs.
Not only are ICU admissions at an all-time high, but the number of deaths reported come close to matching the highest single-day death tally, which was seen on Jan. 8 when 31 people died.
“At a time when most of us had hoped that this pandemic would be close to over, our healthcare system continues to experience severe capacity challenges, greater than we have faced throughout this long and exhausting pandemic,” said Alberta Health Services President Dr. Verna Yiu.
“(Tuesday), we reached 270 patients in the ICU. That is the highest number of ICU patients that we’ve ever seen. At any time during the pandemic, or ever in our provincialized health care system.”
Yiu says the province reached 88 per cent ICU capacity, and that includes the 132 surge spaces that were opened to meet demand.
“Without those spaces, we would be at 156 per cent of our normal capacity, there would not be enough ICU beds for those who need them,” said Yiu.
Yiu says due to this surging capacity, Alberta will be reaching out to other provinces to see if they have any available ICU space where Albertans can get the care they need.
Alberta will also ask other provinces if they have skilled frontline staff who may be willing to come to Alberta to help.