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COVID-19 Pandemic in Alberta
Ongoing COVID-19 viral pandemic in Alberta, Canada
Jason Kenney, the Premier of Alberta, working closely with the Emergency Management Cabinet Committee, followed the recommendations of Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, in response to the "rapidly evolving global threat". A state of public health emergency was declared on March 17. Alberta's public health laboratory greatly increased tests for COVID-19, reaching 1,000 a day by March 8, and 3,000 a day by March 26. Hinshaw said that by March 20, "World-wide, Alberta has been conducting among the highest number of tests per capita." As of June 21, 2021, 4,643,107 tests have been conducted in Alberta. On June 12, the entire province of Alberta moved to Stage 2 of the government's economic relaunch plan.
The peak of the first wave was reached on April 30, 2020, when the number of active cases of COVID-19 in the province reached 3022. By October 19, 2020, during the second wave, the number of active cases reached 3138. This began a series of new record high case numbers in Alberta, peaking on December 14, 2020 at 20,500 active cases. Cases then subsided, dropping down to 4282 on February 18, 2021 - a number still about 40% greater than the peak of the first wave. Active cases totals then grew slowly to 4640 on March 10, 2021, then they began climbing more rapidly.
In a March 4 statement, Hinshaw said that there were no confirmed presumptive COVID-19 cases in Alberta, and the risk at that time was low. Hinshaw advised Albertans to prepare in case COVID-19 should arrive here in Alberta by having "three days' worth of essential items like food, water and medicine on hand in the event of any emergency." She cautioned against panic buying and advised Albertans to "plan ahead".
On March 5, Hinshaw reported Alberta's first presumptive COVID-19 case. On February 21, a woman who was in her 50s, and had been on the Grand Princess Cruise ship had returned to the Calgary zone--an area that includes Calgary, Nanton, Canmore and Claresholm on February 21 and had tested positive. Hinshaw said that more positive cases were found as a result of the work of public health teams who had contacted the 44 Albertans repatriated from the Grand Princess.
March 8-14, 2020
On March 9, 2020, Hinshaw said that tests had revealed the fifth, sixth, and seventh cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. Case five was an older woman who had been on the Princess Cruise. Case 6, in the Calgary zone, was a young man who had travelled to Ukraine, Netherlands and Turkey. Case seven was a woman who was on the MS Braemar Caribbean cruise ship. Hinshaw said that, COVID-19 "can spread person-to-person by larger droplets, like from a cough or sneeze...or by touching contaminated objects or surfaces, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth." Hinshaw acknowledged the work of Health Link, and Alberta's public health laboratory, among others. The laboratory "dramatically increased" capacity for running tests for COVID-19. On March 7 300 tests were performed and on March 8 alone they performed 700 tests. Since all of the cases tested in Alberta were subsequently confirmed, "positive samples tested by Alberta laboratories no longer require further confirmation" from the Winnipeg-based National Microbiology Laboratory (NML).
By March 10, there were 7 new confirmed cases that brought the total to 14 in Alberta. One person had travelled on the same MS Braemar cruise ship in the Caribbean as case seven.
By March 11, there were 5 new cases, bringing the total to 19 confirmed cases in the province. At her daily briefing, Hinshaw drew attention to the World Health Organization's (WHO) official declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic earlier on March 11.
On March 12, Hinshaw said that, faced with the "rapidly evolving global threat", the provincial government had adopted "aggressive new public health measures to limit the spread of this virus." The Emergency Management Cabinet Committee approved Hinshaw's "recommendation that all large gatherings of more than 250 people, or international events" in Alberta be cancelled. She made a number of recommendations regarding how to communicate with children about this virus.
In her response to the March 11 decision by the World Health Organization to "officially declare COVID-19 a global pandemic", Hinshaw said that this "reflects the seriousness" of COVID-19, which is "not like other threats we have seen in the past few decades. It is more severe than seasonal influenza, and more contagious than viruses like SARS." She said that the virus "can be contained" as was the case in "countries like Singapore. At that time, people who had confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alberta, had recently returned from trips to "Iran, Egypt, Spain, Washington state and Mexico." As a result, the province requested that "all travellers returning from Italy" self-isolate for two weeks. As well, airports in Calgary and Edmonton would begin screening starting on March 14.
On March 12, 2020, Alberta announced a ban on all meetings of more than 250 people. As of March 12, all those who have travelled outside Canada "must self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms." Alberta Health launched an online assessment tool on March 13. If the user answers yes to certain questions, they are prompted to call 911 emergency services, 811 to speak with a nurse, or they were be told that a test is not necessary.
By the late evening of March 12, the University of Calgary suspended lectures for the following day, March 13. By March 16, the university closure was made permanent for the remainder of the semester, with the university moving to deliver course content online.
On March 13, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said that Alberta's Health Link had been "receiving more than 6,300 calls a day." The province had "doubled 811 staff" and more were in training but the wait times were long. By March 13, 2803 tests had been administered in Alberta. By March 13, there were numerous closures and cancellations across the province. including some Alberta Court of Queen's Bench jury trials.
March 15-21, 2020
By March 15, Alberta had reported 56 cases, and had completed 10,524 tests. Hinshaw announced at her daily briefing that Alberta had its first cases of community transmission, which was at that time limited to seven people, six of whom attended the Pacific Dental Conference held from March 5 to 7 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia have been identified with the conference, which had 15,000 attendees.
Alberta ordered all daycares to close, all K-12 schools to suspend classes and close to students, and all post-secondary institutions to suspend in-person classes and switch to online classes on March 15. Grade 12 diploma exams will still occur.
Calgary's Mayor Naheed Nenshi on March 15, and Red Deer's Mayor Tara Veer on March 16, declared a State of Local Emergency (SOLE) in their cities. Nenshi ordered "ordered all city-owned and operated fitness facilities and pools, as well as public libraries, to close." and other facilities were restricted to 250 persons or 50 percent occupancy, with some exclusions, including grocery stores, shopping centres, big-box stores, casinos, pharmacies, airports, offices, public transit, and AHS facilities, shelters, and care centres. The director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, Tom Sampson, said Calgary residents would have basic services including water and power, public transit, and 911 for emergency services from fire, police and ambulance.[Notes 1] The Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) has been providing regular "COVID-19 - State of Local Emergency impact" updates.
On March 16, the province of Alberta announced that "all kindergarten to Grade 12 classes and in-person post-secondary lectures" were suspended. At her daily briefing, Hinshaw said that she was self-isolating[Notes 2] as she waited for the results of her test for COVID-19. This included not eating meals with family and keeping a distance of 2 metres away from family members until she had test results. She reported that with 18 new cases confirmed, Alberta had 74 cases.
On the evening of March 16, the Emergency Management Cabinet Committee authorized Premier Kenney to use "all powers necessary" to "keep Albertans safe".
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney declared a public health state of emergency under the Public Health Act (PHA) on March 17, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer. The province imposed specific "aggressive public health measures" which included "limiting mass gatherings", and prohibiting and limiting attendance at a number of public and private facilities.
By March 17, there were 23 new cases representing the "largest day-over-day increase yet in the province" resulting in total of 97 people in Alberta with the virus. Confirmed cases across the province include 20 in the Calgary zone, 20 in the Edmonton zone, 3 in the Central zone, 1 in the South zone, and 3 in the North zone.
Hinshaw's March 17 update said that five people that tested positive were hospitalized, two had been were admitted to the ICU, and the other 90 individuals were "self-isolating at home and expected to make a full recovery." She listed the province-wide "aggressive steps" that were taken to prevent the virus from spreading, which included limiting contact between people. She described how these steps were undertaken to "flatten the curve". "The more we can slow the spread of the virus down, the less likely it is that there will be a surge of cases that overwhelm our health system's capacity to care for those who need hospitalization or intensive care." She announced that Alberta Health Services was preparing for an "increase in the number of cases that need hospital care" so all scheduled and elective surgeries were postponed. She listed activities that would be prohibited under the state of emergency declared by Premier Kenney.
On March 18, Alberta reported 119 cases of people testing positive for COVID-19. On March 18, Hinshaw said that Alberta's "online self-assessment tool had been accessed more than 1.3 million times."
Alberta had performed about 15,000 tests, adding that, "To put that into perspective, when accounting for population size, that is 35 times higher than the per capita number of tests in the US."
Hinshaw said at her March 18 update, "We have had to weigh lives against livelihoods. And in order to save lives, I have had to make recommendations that will take away livelihoods from many Albertans over the next several weeks to months. There are no easy solutions to the situation we are in, not only in Alberta but around the world." Both Premier Kenney and Hinshaw said that Alberta "may not reach the peak of the current coronavirus pandemic for weeks, and that drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus may be needed until the end of May." Hinshaw said that "first wave of the outbreak could reach its peak in Alberta around mid-April" and that "officials expect another wave of the illness in the fall."
By March 19, doctors in Alberta were encouraged to practice "social distancing, including from their own clinics."Peace River physician, Dr. Heather Shonoski said that, "Family physicians have been begging" Tyler Shandro, Alberta's Minister of Health to allow them to "provide virtual care" to their patients" so that they could keep their "vulnerable patients at home and promote social distancing."
On March 19, Hinshaw announced the first death in Alberta in the Edmonton zone, along with 27 new confirmed cases bringing the total to 146. By March 19 Alberta labs had performed 16,867 tests. Hinshaw said that eight cases are suspected to be spread through community transmission.[Notes 3] She said that the recovery of two patients from their symptoms, was a "sign of hope that many people who get this do recover."
By March 20, there were 49 new confirmed cases making a total of 195 confirmed cases identified in Alberta. Hishaw said that 11 of these "may be community transmission". As of March 20, 3 individuals had recovered, 10 were hospitalized. Three more patients were admitted to the ICU since March 19, for a total of 5 being treated in the ICU. Hinshaw said that, "World-wide, Alberta has been conducting among the highest number of tests per capita." By March 20, Alberta labs had conducted 20,165 tests.
On March 21, 31 new cases with a total of 226 cases and of those 16 are suspected of being shared by community transmission. Of the 11 people hospitalized, 6 are in ICU. The update called for vigilance of "online or phone scams" and reminded Albertans that neither Alberta Health or Alberta Health Services would call and ask for "social insurance numbers or banking information". By March 21, Alberta labs had conducted 23,516 tests. By March 21, Big-box stores, such as Home Depot Canada had sent notices that they would be "limiting the number of customers inside at a time".
March 22-30, 2020
By March 22, the total number of tests conducted was 26,740, the total number of cases was 259, with the addition of 33 new cases on March 22.
There were 301 confirmed cases announced at the March 23 briefing. There were 42 new cases.
By March 24, a second person had died. By March 24, of the tests conducted to date, 32,418 were negative and 358 were positive. There were 57 new cases confirmed.
On March 24, Alberta Health Services changed their approach to testing, to focus on "groups at highest risk of local exposure." People returning from travel abroad after March 10, were advised to self-isolate for 14 days.
At their March 25 briefing Premier Kenney and Health Minister Shandro announced that Peace Officers would be enforcing rules related to "self-isolation and physical distancing." Hinshaw said that the "significant case numbers"--which included 61 new cases, of which 33 were believed to be by community transmission, 20 patients hospitalized, and 8 in ICU--"underscore the seriousness of the situation that we face."
On March 29 there were 40 new cases representing the smallest daily increase in Alberta since March 21, compared to March 28 with 79 new cases, the highest daily number to date. On March 30, Hinshaw stated that testing has been reduced the previous two days, as they are no longer automatically testing returning travellers, and there were shortages of lab supplies which should be rectified by the end of the week.
University of Calgary academics, Tyler Williamson and Christopher Naugler are "frequently producing models...which they're sending to government health officials to give the best information available about where the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to lead Alberta." Williamson, who is an assistant professor of biostatistics in community health sciences department, says that "Alberta is currently on a "middle-of-the-road" trajectory, likely to avoid a worst-case scenario of Italy but also unlikely to achieve the dramatic success achieved in Singapore, where stringent social distancing measures were imposed early." Naugler, who is associate dean at the Cumming School of Medicine, says that Alberta "may buck the trend on deaths" as "Alberta has a low mortality rate, with nine deaths to date, as well as a low rate of admission to intensive-care units". Naugler "hypothesizes this may be because of the province's relatively young demographic, low smoking rate or robust health-care system."
On April 6, echoing recent guidance by the federal government, Hinshaw recommended the wearing non-medical face masks in public by people who expect to go into situations where it is difficult to maintain the required physical distance from others, citing that it could help to slow spread by those who are asymptomatic. Premier Kenney noted that Alberta presently has about a one-month supply of the technical N95 masks and an adequate supply of procedural masks. The government is continuously obtaining additional supplies from both international and domestic suppliers. He stated that the government will be obtaining a large supply of non-medical masks for future use by the public.
On April 7, Alberta Health Services published models projecting that in the "most probable" scenario, the peak number of cases will occur in mid-May, with around 800,000 total cases and 400 to 3,100 total deaths, and that if measures had not been taken, Alberta would have seen as many as 1.6 million cases and around 32,000 deaths.
On April 11, Shandro announced that Alberta had sufficient beds and personal protective equipment (PPE) to meet the province's projected demand, and that it would provide shipments of personal protective equipment to British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec, as well as 50 ventilators for Ontario.
On April 15, Premier Kenney announced an additional $53 million in mental health funding will be made available for programmes and services to help Albertans cope with mental health and addiction issues that have arisen as a result of the pandemic. Also on April 15, Dr Hinshaw noted that the criteria for testing has been expanded to include more potential cases, which has resulted in an increase in daily positive test results. Much of the daily data was missing for April 15 and 16 due to a small electrical fire at the data centre, leading to skewed results for those dates as well as April 17, when normal reporting resumed.
On April 17, Alberta Health Services took over operations of the Manoir du Lac continuing care facility in McLennan. Hinshaw reported that the measure was necessary due to staff shortages, inadequate care of residents, inadequate screening of staff and visitors, and incorrect use of personal protective equipment. As of April 17, 2020[update] the facility has had 26 people test positive for COVID-19 and 5 residents have died.
On April 20, Cargill closed its High River beef processing plant because the operation was part of a significant cluster of 1,560 cases as of May 5, 2020. All 2,100 employees were tested, out of which 946 employees tested positive. The Alberta Occupational health and safety launched an investigation into conditions at the Cargill meat-packing plant in High River, and 96 cases at a JBS plant in Brooks.
On April 30, the number of active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta reached 3,022, which was the peak of the first wave.
After closing for two weeks, the plant reopened on May 4. The High River, Alberta-based Cargill Meat Solutions, is a subsidiary of Cargill Inc--a multi-generational family-owned and operated, multinational agribusiness. By May 6, of the 5,893 confirmed cases in the entire province of Alberta, the province's health services had "linked 1,560 cases to the Cargill facility." Over the month of May, Cargill became the site of one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in North America. By the end of May there were 953 COVID-19 cases in total linked to the facility that employed 2,000 people representing almost 50% of Cargill's employees. Of these by May 30, 946 people had recovered, there were five active cases and two people had died, according to Alberta Health.
On May 11, problems at an oil sands plant in Kearl Lake, Alberta caused more than 100 COVID-19 illnesses across four provinces. Kearl Lake has more than 1,400 workers. The oil sands sector was declared an essential service by the Alberta government so that fly-in fly-out camps like Kearl Lake have continued to operate during the pandemic. Workers come from afar, typically for two week non-stop shifts. On April 15, Alberta Health Services declared an outbreak with three cases of the illness. On April 16, there were 12 cases. On May 8, the number of cases exceeded 100, including 23 located in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia because the shift work allows interprovincial commuters to thrive. "At least three went back to the community of La Loche in Saskatchewan's remote north. More than 130 people have since been infected with the contagion in the Dene village of 2,800 people, about 600 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. Two have died." Two-week self-isolation policies were erected on April 19 by the away provinces.
On June 15, the provincial state of emergency ended. On June 16, the province reported 35 new cases and 449 active cases. A petition by Albertan doctors calling on government officials to make wearing a mask mandatory in indoor public spaces was circulating. In Verve Condominiums, a high-rise 25-storey condo with 228 units in Calgary's East Village neighbourhood, there were 40 confirmed cases.
According to data from the federal government, from July 7 to 21, of all the Canadian provinces, Alberta had the highest per-capita rate of active cases. Over that time period, Alberta had the "highest percentage of positive tests". Alberta's rate of hospitalization was on "on the rise and second only to Quebec." At a July 21 press conference, Premier Kenney said that "we should all be very concerned about the recent rise in active COVID-19 cases". He then announced plans for a "near-normal" return to classes in September with no class-size limits or mandatory masks.
In August, Alberta Health shared data with the public revealing that 4,000 of approximately 13,000 known cases in Alberta were "connected to multi-person outbreaks at various workplaces, medical settings, businesses, churches and private gatherings." Of these, the largest were at Cargill and JBS in April and May. Outbreaks that resulted in deaths occurred in long-term care homes for seniors--Edmonton's Good Samaritan Southgate Care Centre had 31 COVID-related deaths as of August 27.
Schools reopened in September. By mid-September, there had been 42 people who were infectious who were present in 35 schools. Seven schools in Alberta reported outbreaks.
By October 19, during the second wave, the number of active cases reached 3,138, which was the highest reported in Alberta. At that time there were 97 schools with outbreaks, including 26 schools where there were 5 or more cases.
On November 6, 2020, Premier Kenney called on Albertans to follow guidelines and to "take personal responsibility", arguing that "we've seen other jurisdictions implement sweeping lockdowns, indiscriminately violating people's rights and destroying livelihoods. Nobody wants that to happen in Alberta." On November 9, a group of 70 physicians issued a joint letter to the Kenney government, calling for a two-week "circuit breaker" lockdown to help control and trace the present surge of cases, criticizing the government's lack of leadership and direction. On November 10, Alberta exceeded 8,000 active cases and 200 hospitalizations.
On November 24, Premier Kenney re-declared a provincial public health emergency, instating new restrictions on gatherings and retail capacity.
On November 26, CBC News obtained recordings from COVID-19 strategy meetings at the Alberta Emergency Operations Centre, revealing evidence of political tensions between health officials and the Kenney government that may have impacted Alberta's response to the pandemic.
On December 8, the Government of Alberta announced new public health measures which restricted dine-in food service, closed personal services such as hairdressers and tattoo parlors, closed gyms and fitness studios, prohibited social gatherings, reduced retail and places of worship capacity from 25% to 15%, provided for a province-wide mask mandate, and strongly suggested work-from-home measures. The measures were to be in place for a minimum of four weeks.
On December 14, total active case numbers peaked in Alberta at 20,500. Active cases then began to decline for the remainder of December, about 3 weeks after the renewal of limited gathering and retail restrictions, and just 1 week after the implementation of much tighter restrictions and closures.
On December 28, Hinshaw announced that Lineage B.1.1.7, a variant of concern (VoC) originating from the United Kingdom that is more infectious, had been detected in a positive test sample from a traveller that had recently returned from the United Kingdom.
On January 7, the Government of Alberta announced in-person learning for K-12 students would begin following the winter break on January 11. The government also extended public health measures implemented on December 8, 2020 for an additional two weeks. The next day, the province confirmed that the 501.V2, a VoC originating from South Africa, had been detected in Alberta. It was the first 501.V2 case detected in Canada.
On January 25, the province announced that it had detected a B.1.1.7 case that had no links to travel. Minister of Health Tyler Shandro announced that the province would scale its whole genome sequencing and screening operations in order to improve their ability to detect variants. To control the spread of variants of concern, Shandro also announced that quarantine rules would be reintroduced for travellers crossing the land border, under which they must self-isolate until they test negative on a second test.
Active case numbers continued to decline throughout the month. Vaccinations continued for Phase 1 recipients, primarily to prioritized health workers, and senior residents 75+ in continuing care facilities.
On February 8, the province moved to Step 1 of "The Path Forward", allowing restaurants to reopen at a reduced capacity, one-on-one fitness instruction, and children's sport and performance activities to be allowed under certain circumstances.
On February 19, Premier Kenney announced the next steps in the vaccination plan. Starting on February 19, the group defined as Phase 1B would be eligible to be vaccinated. This group included all seniors 75+ living in seniors lodges and other congregated care facilities.
On February 24, Vaccinations were extended to Phase 1B (part 2), which included all seniors 75+, even if they lived independently. This also included First Nations, Metis and Inuit seniors 65+ living in a First Nations or Metis community or settlement.
Total active cases continued to decline during the month of February.
On March 8, total active cases for the second wave reached their lowest level since the wave peaked, at 4579 active cases, which was still 40% higher than the peak of the first wave in April 2020. The province moved in full to Step 2 of "The Path Forward", allowing collegiate sport and adult performance activities under certain circumstances, an increase in capacity for retail, low-intensity group fitness appointments, and allowing libraries and event halls to reopen with restrictions.
On March 9, active case numbers started to rise again. Over the next days and weeks, active cases were again rising, at an increasing rate throughout the month.
On March 15, the vaccination program progressed to Phase 2A, which expanded its offer of vaccines to all Albertan seniors aged 65-74, First Nations, Metis and Inuit aged 50+, and staff and residents of senior living facilities who didn't qualify in Phase 1. By this point, Alberta Health Services partnered with certain pharmacies around the province to increase capacity for vaccination. The government also changed the vaccination schedule, delaying the second dose to a period as long as 4 months, in order to distribute more first doses without having to hold as many in reserve in anticipation of a second dose in a few weeks.
On April 3, 2021, the province reported a "significant" outbreak involving Lineage P.1, a VoC originating from Brazil. Beyond the index case being a recent traveller, no further details were revealed.
Additional information was released on April 6, with Hinshaw stating that the index case was an employee of a large company operating in Western Canada who had returned from out-of-province travel, that it was "confined to three work sites in Central and North zone, where employees have travelled between sites," and that 26 cases had been tied to this outbreak so far, with three Lineage P.1 cases having been detected among them so far. A workplace outbreak with five cases, including one detected as Lineage P.1, was also reported in Calgary. Although the company was not specifically named in Hinshaw's statement, PTW Energy Services subsequently issued a statement confirming it was the company involved in the larger outbreak, with the sites having been located in Drayton Valley, Edson and Hinton.
Due to the increasing caseload and hospitalizations, Premier Kenney announced an immediate rollback to "Step 1" restrictions effective at midnight, and that indoor dining at bars and restaurants would also be restricted beginning April 9. An exception was provided for outdoor dining.
On April 7, AHS officials physically restricted access to GraceLife Church in Parkland County for repeated violations of public health orders.
On April 29, the province reported over 2,000 new cases for the first time to-date, and reached a record total of 21,385 active cases. Premier Kenney announced a series of "targeted health measures" through at least May 13 for areas with high infection rates per-capita (including most of Alberta's metropolitan areas), including transitioning schools to online classes, ordering the closure of indoor gyms, and ordering the suspension of indoor sports activity. Kenney also warned that there would be an option to impose curfews at the request of local officials or if active cases exceed 1,000 per-100,000, and urged all residents of Alberta to stay home and not travel outside of their communities.
On May 1, Alberta exceeded its highest increase of daily cases for the third consecutive day. The next day, CTV News reported per an aggregate of Canadian numbers with those of the United States, that Alberta had the second-highest seven-day average of new cases per-1,000,000 among all Canadian provinces, territories, and U.S. states, behind only Michigan. University of Calgary infectious disease researcher Craig Jenne argued that there was "no real evidence that any of the restrictions so far are bringing these numbers under control". Premier Kenney condemned an anti-lockdown "rodeo rally" that was held near Bowden, Alberta on May 1, describing it as a "flagrant violation" of public health orders, and arguing that it contradicted the spirit of rodeos as a celebration of Alberta heritage, "a key part of which is our community spirit and looking out for others, especially the vulnerable."
On May 3, Premier Kenney stated that Alberta was planning to announce "stronger" public health orders on May 4, arguing that the province needed to take the pandemic seriously, "put the health care system first", and that "we are facing a very serious wave and we will take whatever measures are necessary to address it." During an address that evening, Kenney announced new province-wide restrictions, including a stricter limit on public gatherings and retail capacity effective immediately, closing all schools to in-person classes on May 7, and ordering the closure of personal care services and outdoor dining at restaurants beginning May 10. Furthermore, any non-critical business that is the subject of an outbreak will be required to close for 10 days.
On May 18, Premier Kenney announced over 50% of Alberta residents 12 and over had received at least one vaccine dose. However, the province was still dealing with large numbers of cases, with a test positivity of 11.4%.
On March 12, the province restricted all gatherings to a maximum of 250 people, recommended against international travel, and recommended that anyone returning from international travel self-isolate for 14 days on return. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench postponed all jury trials scheduled to begin after March 13. Jury trials which were already in process, would continue.
Premier Kenney declared a public health emergency on March 17. The next day, he announced a series of provincial financial measures, including deferral of utility payments, ceasing of collection of corporate income taxes, a "six-month moratorium on student loans", and an emergency isolation support package.
On March 28, after having restricted them to 50 people, the province further limited gatherings to 15 people, suspended vehicle access to provincial parks, and ordered the closure of all "close-contact" health and personal care services, dine-in restaurants, and "non-essential" retail stores. Premier Kenney also announced protection for renters.
On April 23, Hinshaw announced that the restriction on gatherings of more than 15 people would persist through the summer. Hinshaw stated that although cases were trending downward, COVID-19 "spreads rapidly through social interactions", it would be "with us for many months to come", and that they did not want to risk any further super-spreader events. The Calgary Stampede, K-Days, and a number of other provincial events were therefore cancelled, with the Stampede cancelled for the first time in nearly a century.
On April 30, the Alberta government announced a plan to lift restrictions in several phases. Some medical services and outdoor recreational activities reopen in early May, while daycare centres, restaurants and some retail outlets would reopen at reduced capacity on May 14. The timing of the next phase would depend on whether or not the first phase results in an increase in virus cases.
Restrictions began to re-emerge in November 2020; on November 12, it was announced that for 14 days, bars would be required to end liquor sales by 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m. within regions that were given an "enhanced status" classification by the AHS, and that all group fitness, group performance, and indoor team sports activity would be prohibited in the regions of Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, and Red Deer.
On November 24, Kenney announced that all indoor "social gatherings" would be prohibited, residents may only be in close contact with members of their immediate household (or up to two people if living alone), and outdoor gatherings, weddings, and funerals would be limited to no more than 10 people. Students from grade 7 through 12 would shift to online classes from November 30 to January 11, 2021. In addition, event venues and indoor play spaces in enhanced status areas would be ordered closed, restaurants would be limited to tables of six with no entertainment allowed, casinos would be prohibited from operating table games, and retail businesses were capped at a maximum of 25% of their licensed capacity. Kenney also encouraged businesses to have employees work from home for at least three weeks. It was stated that the measures would be evaluated, and that by December 15, the province desired the rate of new transmissions to fall to 1%.
On December 8, Premier Kenney announced a new series of health orders. All social gatherings were prohibited, and face masks must be worn province-wide in any indoor public space. Effective December 13, all in-person restaurants, bars, casinos and gaming facilities, indoor entertainment and recreation facilities, fitness centres, personal care facilities, art galleries, libraries, museums, and arenas were ordered closed. All employees are required to work from home unless their physical presence is considered necessary for their respective job, and all retail businesses and religious gatherings were limited to 15% of the venue's licensed capacity. These measures would remain in effect for at least four weeks. Kenney stated that he did not want to order the closure of all retail businesses, considering such a measure to have been disproportionately advantageous to "big U.S.-owned big-box stores" and detrimental to smaller, Alberta-owned businesses.
On December 22, Premier Kenney announced a one-time exemption to the province's gathering restrictions for the holiday season, allowing people who live alone to visit another household once between December 23 and 28. On January 7, 2021, Premier Kenney announced that the existing measures would be extended for at least two more weeks.
On January 18, the province began to allow outdoor public gatherings of up to 20 people, and personal care services to reopen for one-on-one appointments. On January 21, the remaining restrictions were extended for an indefinite period, with Hinshaw stating that Alberta needed to "give it a bit more time" and focus on "how we all collectively work together to keep those numbers coming down."
All private indoor gatherings with individuals from outside of the immediate household are prohibited, unless otherwise exempted.
Outdoor gatherings capped at 10 people with social distancing.
All in-person dining at restaurants and bars is prohibited.
All entertainment businesses and entities must close.
All schools and post-secondary institutions conducted remote classes from May 7 through May 24.
Retail stores are limited to 15% capacity or 5 customers, whichever is lower.
All personal care services, health services, professional services, and social services must operate by-appointment only
Places of worship may operate at 15% capacity.
Masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces. Those exempt must obtain an exception letter from an authorized health official.
All employees must work from home if they have the capability to do so.
All Indoor sport, recreation, and performance activities are prohibited.
Outdoor recreation activities are permitted for individuals or groups of 10 people or fewer.
Sports where players cannot maintain social distancing are prohibited.
All other restrictions still apply.
Targeted public health measures
Applies in areas that had at least 50 active cases per-100,000 as of May 10, 2021.
All province-wide measures apply, with the following addendums:
Outdoor gatherings capped at 5 people with social distancing.
Wedding and funeral receptions prohibited
Retail stores are restricted to five customers or 10% capacity, whichever is greater.
All personal care services must close.
Places of worship capped at 15 persons.
Outdoor fitness, recreation and performance activities may only involve members of the immediate household.
If a non-critical workplace is linked to at least three new cases via on-site transmission, they must close for 10 days.
On January 29, 2021, Premier Kenney announced that restrictions would begin to be eased on February 8 via a framework known as "The Path Forward"; it defines key metrics which would allow restrictions to be eased incrementally, over several steps. Among these benchmark metrics were upper limits on hospitalized COVID cases, and a minimum wait period of three weeks between each step, in order to assess impact and ensure that the healthcare system would not be overwhelmed.
On March 1, Premier Kenney announced that Alberta would begin to phase in "Step 2", allowing for low-intensity group fitness classes to resume. The remainder of Phase 2 was implemented March 8, which included the ability for libraries to reopen (limited to 15% capacity), retail to operate at 25% capacity, banquet and conference halls to open for allowed activities, and collegiate sports programs allowed to conduct practices with 10 participants per-group, with three metres of social distancing between them and masks mandatory (games are prohibited).
On March 22, due to a major surge of cases brought upon by variants of concern, Health Minister Tyler Shandro stated that the province had no plans to move to "Step 3" at that time, explaining that "moving to Step 3 can be considered only when hospitalizations for COVID patients are under 300 and declining. Hospitalizations must be on a clear downward trajectory if we are to enter any new step, just like they were when we entered Step 1 and Step 2 earlier this year."
On April 6, Premier Kenny announced that Alberta would be rolled back to Step 1 effective 11:59 p.m. MT until further notice; in addition, beginning April 9 restaurants were prohibited from offering indoor dining, but could still offer outdoor dining. On April 29, Premier Kenney announced a series of "targeted health measures" applying in regions with at least 250 active cases and more than 350 active cases per-100,000; schools must close to in-person classes, indoor gyms must close, and all indoor sports activity must be suspended. These orders will apply for two weeks, even if incidence rates fall below the threshold during the period. Kenney indicated that curfews may be implemented at the request of local officials or if active cases exceed 1,000 per-100,000.
On May 4, Premier Kenney announced new restrictions; province-wide, all schools and post-secondary institutions were moved to online classes from May 7 to at least May 25, and all in-person dining at restaurants was prohibited beginning May 10, even for outdoor dining, and all indoor recreation activities were prohibited. In regions with at least 50 active cases per-100,000, gatherings were further limited to 5 people, personal care services were ordered closed, retail stores were limited to 10% capacity, outdoor recreation with individuals from outside of the immediate household was prohibited, and any non-critical business that is the subject of a COVID-19 outbreak will be ordered closed for 10 days. Hinshaw later stated that the move to close schools was an "operational decision" due to community transmission impacting staffing.
School students returned to in-person classes on May 25 following the Victoria Day holiday. On May 26, Premier Kenney announced the replacement of "The Path Forward" with the "Open for Summer Plan", a new framework that would be based on vaccination progress and hospitalization metrics. On June 18, 2021 at a media event in Edmonton, Premier Kenny announced per the Plan that Step 3 would be implemented on July 1, as the province had met the 70% threshold of first doses.
At least two weeks have passed since the following metrics have been met:
At least 50% of eligible residents have received at least one vaccine dose.
Province-wide hospitalizations are below 800.
June 1, 2021
Outdoor gatherings capped at 10 people with social distancing.
Outdoor recreation activities are permitted for individuals or groups of 10 people or fewer.
All indoor social gatherings are prohibited.
All employees must work from home if they have the capability to do so.
Retail stores are limited to 15% capacity.
Places of worship may operate at 15% capacity.
Personal care services must operate by-appointment only
Wedding ceremonies capped at 10 people.
Funeral services capped at 20 people.
Wedding and funeral receptions prohibited
Restaurants limited to outdoor/patio service, maximum four people per-table, restricted to members or immediate household or designated close contacts for those who live alone.
At least two weeks have passed since the following metrics have been met:
At least 60% of eligible residents have received at least one vaccine dose.
Province-wide hospitalizations are below 500 and decreasing.
On August 1, Calgary and Edmonton both mandated the wearing of masks in indoor public spaces. Banff also requires masks in its downtown pedestrian area. By November 20, 2020, Alberta was the only province without a provincial mask mandate. A mask mandate was announced on December 8, 2020.
On May 1, the province released a digital encounter logging app, ABTraceTogether--developed by Deloitte and based on the BlueTrace protocol and Singapore's TraceTogether app--which generates random IDs transmitted via Bluetooth and logged by the app on other users' phones. If a user tests positive, their ID can be flagged by the system and other users notified, which can help to speed up initial contact tracing. Officials stated that the app was the first of its kind to be deployed within North America.
iOS limitations prevent ABTraceTogether from running in the background on iPhone, and thus require it to be open and in the foreground in order to operate. This limitation does not impact the Android version, which is able to run in the background. Alberta NDP critic for democracy and ethics Heather Sweet displayed concern for the limitation and privacy implications tied to it, arguing that "when you're keeping your device open at all times when you're using it, the question becomes, how is that data being stored if you're collected it from somebody else and how is it being used?"
On July 31, 2020, the Canadian federal government launched COVID Alert, which is based on Apple Inc. and Google's Exposure Notification system. It operates in a similar manner to ABTraceTogether, using APIs implemented at the OS level on both Android and iOS to overcome the aforementioned limitations on background operation. It also does not require the provision of personally-identifiable information to use. In August 2020, the Alberta government reported that it wanted to shift ABTraceTogether to Exposure Notification to create interoperability with COVID Alert, but alleged that the federal government was preventing them from releasing updates to the iOS version due to Apple's partnership with it. It was later announced that Alberta would adopt and migrate users to COVID Alert.
By October, COVID Alert had been adopted in all provinces except Alberta and British Columbia. Alberta stated that it needed to ensure all existing 247,000 ABTraceTogether accounts could be "transitioned" to COVID Alert. Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi called upon the provincial government to adopt the app, citing the limitations of ABTraceTogether, and warning against the "politicization of public health"--in reference to members of the majority United Conservative Party having recently heckled COVID Alert as "Trudeau's app" during Question Period. In an October 30 interview with 630 CHED, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called upon Premier Kenney to adopt COVID Alert, and stated that Alberta residents could still download the app to receive exposure notifications from out-of-province users (although Alberta users cannot report their own COVID positives to the app unless it is adopted by Alberta Health Services).
On November 6, Premier Kenney stated that Alberta would not adopt COVID Alert, stating that the province would no longer be able to operate ABTraceTogether if it did, and argued that ABTraceTogether was "from our view, simply a better and more effective public health tool".
By March 8, Alberta's public health laboratory was performing 1,000 a day and by March 26, they were conducting 3,000 a day. The total number of tests performed reached 20,165 by March 20, which represented among the "highest number of tests per capita" in the world. As of April 21, 109,015 tests had been conducted and 3,095 cases were confirmed.
On March 24, following the example of other Canadian provinces, the AHS shifted priorities towards testing "groups at highest risk of local exposure". Under the new guidelines, "travellers who returned to Alberta after March 12" with mild symptoms would no longer be tested for COVID-19. Under the new testing protocol, there are four groups of people who will have priority for testing: those who "are hospitalized with respiratory illness"; "residents of continuing care and other similar facilities"; people "who returned from travelling abroad between March 8 and March 12"; and "health-care workers with respiratory symptoms." Hinshaw said, "Our new approach reflects the fact that the most important thing anyone can do if they have mild symptoms isn't to get tested - it's to stay home and self-isolate."
Health Link nurses had been referring people with COVID-19 symptoms to one of a number of drive-thru assessment centres for testing.
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Travel and entry restrictions
Under federal travel restrictions implemented March 18, Calgary International Airport is one of only four Canadian airports currently accepting international flights from outside the Caribbean, Mexico, and the United States. Travellers arriving at Calgary international arrival gates are met with Alberta health officials who are "reinforcing a message of mandatory" 14 days self-isolation to returning travelers.
On October 22, the government of Alberta announced a pilot project with the federal government, whereby individuals returning from international travel via Calgary International Airport or the Sweetgrass-Coutts Border Crossing may waive the federally-mandated quarantine period if they are immediately tested for COVID-19 on arrival. They must quarantine until the result comes back negative, after which they are no longer restricted, although they must receive a second test within six or seven days of arrival, complete a daily assessment survey, and not travel out of province for 14 days. By December 2020, it was reported that at least 10,000 travelers had opted into the scheme, and that the positivity rate was "quite low".
On March 14, the chief economist of Alberta Central, a banking facility for the province's credit unions, said that because of the pandemic and the low oil price, they expect that the provincial economy will contract by 1.5% in 2020, with 25,000 jobs lost.
Premier Kenney announced school closures on March 15. All daycares were closed. Classes were suspended for K-12 schools but schools were not closed. According to a March 20 Alberta Teachers Association notification, teachers were still required to work, either from home if the school board permits, or in their schools. Post-secondary institutions switched to online classes and all in-person classes were suspended. With schools and daycares closed, and parents needing childcare, a hundred University of Alberta medical students offered to provide childcare to doctors and other COVID-19 front-line health-care workers.
By the evening of March 12, the University of Calgary notified students that it was suspending lectures effective the following day. Effective April 2, access to any campus facilities was closed off, except for electronic/keycard access to authorized staff and students.
By March 21, the University of Alberta notified students living on campus that they had to leave their residences by March 24, with exemptions for "international students and people from out of province or in isolation." In Calgary, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology told students they had until March 23 to leave.
In July 2020, the NHL announced that Rogers Place in Edmonton would be one of two host arenas of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs beginning August 1 (alongside Toronto's Scotiabank Centre), which were played behind closed doors with all participating teams staying within a restricted area encompassing the arena and nearby facilities such as hotels. Rogers Centre had been considered a front-runner prior to the announcement due to its high-quality facilities and ease of access to nearby hotels and facilities, while the league eventually focused on Canadian cities due to the spike of new cases in the United States.
Virus transmission can be travel-related, close contact cases or can be community-transmitted. By March 31, there were 286 cases known to have been spread through travel. Hinshaw reported in the last week in March that returning travellers were obligated to self-quarantine for 14 days. The province shifted testing priorities and was no longer testing returned travelers, so this number is not expected to rise. By the end of March there were 297 cases that had been "spread through close contact with an infected individual or object."
About 72 people attended a curling bonspiel held at the Granite Curling Club in Edmonton from March 11 to 14 and by March 27 at least 24 medical professionals who participated had tested positive for COVID-19. Health officials believe that a doctor from Saskatchewan who had been to Las Vegas before attending the Edmonton event was the bonspiel's patient zero. There was a banquet at the event, and health officials suspect that serving spoons, which many people handled, were the source of spreading the virus.
By March 25, 34 cases were linked to a "super spreader" event, a March 6 prayer meeting held at a private home in Calgary's Upper northwest zone, with a pastor from Singapore as the featured guest. Jason Kenney's polling numbers plummeted in the last few months of 2020. 
Community transmission refers to cases where Alberta Health Service (AHS) investigators "could not identify an obvious source of the virus." Alberta's first case of community transmission was announced on March 15, and by March 26 there were 34 cases of the virus, suspected to have been spread by community transmission.
By March 31 the number of community-transmitted cases had increased to 75 which was double the number from the previous week. The number of community-transmitted cases serves as a significant indicator of the success or failure of social distancing.
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(October 2020)
By March 30, there were 36 residents of the McKenzie Towne care home and five staff members that were "probable or confirmed cases". By March 31, Alberta Health was also tracking outbreaks in Calgary's Carewest Glenmore Park Centre and Shepherd's Care Kensington in the Edmonton Zone. Hinshaw described these outbreaks as "worrisome".
The town of High River had 164 cases and one death as of April 17, with some of the patients being employees of the Cargill meat packing plant. The plant continued at a reduced capacity, but no layoffs had occurred as of April 17. As of April 17, there were 358 cases linked to the plant, accounting for 15% of the province's cases. United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union Local 401 lobbied unsuccessfully for the plant's closure since the point at which health authorities were aware of 38 cases linked to the facility. On April 20, Cargill temporarily closed the facility after a total of 484 cases were confirmed.
In July, an outbreak emerged in Warner, Alberta--a U.S. border region which had, up until then, had no confirmed cases. On July 3, the number of active cases had increased to 39. The government stated that these cases were "all linked to known sources and stem largely from a small number of gatherings in large families or social groups." The AHS also stated that it was investigating a possible link between the outbreak to a recent funeral held by a nearby Hutterite colony. Officials in Saskatchewan had been working with Alberta to investigate whether interprovincial travel may have led to an outbreak at Hutterite colonies in southwestern Saskatchewan.
Cases over time
Statistics are provided in daily reports by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Deena Hinshaw, and posted on the Government of Alberta's website. As of April 25, there were 226 new cases, making a total of 4,223 confirmed cases. As of April 25, 184 patients have been hospitalized, and 47 have spent time in the ICU, and 73 people have died since the beginning of the pandemic in Alberta. As of April 20, 540 cases were suspected of being spread by community transmission and 1,230 people had recovered.
Geographic distribution of cases
The Alberta government maintains a geospatial tracker, which provides more specific geographic data, such as active cases per city region, city, or county.
^Block, Eric; Goldenberg, Adam; Waschuk, Grace (March 19, 2020). "COVID-19: Can they do that? Part IV: Alberta's Public Health Act and Emergency Management Act". McCarthy Tétrault. Archived from the original on March 23, 2020. Retrieved 2020. The declaration enables the Alberta government to take measures intended to protect public health. To date, among other measures, the provincial government has prohibited mass gatherings, attendance at recreation and entertainment facilities, and the operation of restaurants above 50% capacity.