Alberta takes another step forward

Alberta takes another step forward

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Alberta is taking a baby step forward as part of the province’s phased in path to reopening.

Step two, effective March 1, includes two notable changes. Libraries are now allowed to open, subject to a limit of 15 per cent of fire code capacity, not including staff members and secondly, low intensity individual and group fitness activities will now be permitted indoors, such as pilates, Tai Chi and indoor climbing.

High intensity activities such as running on a treadmill are still only allowed on a one on one basis with a trainer or for a household and one trainer. Wearing masks and physical distancing are still required for low intensity fitness activity and for coaches or trainers during high intensity activities. Drop in fitness is still not allowed.

Changes to current restrictions for retail, children’s sports, and hotels, banquets, community halls and conference centres have been delayed.

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Just over a month ago, the Alberta government announced the easing of health measures province wide, occurring in a four-step framework. Steps are based on Covid-19 hospitalization benchmarks and are three weeks apart. They are being phased in once a benchmark, or required criteria is reached.

Monday marked the start of the second step.

“Over the past few months, Alberta has made tremendous progress,” said Jason Kenney, premier. “Our health care system, which we all rely on, continues to see a sharp decline in people admitted to hospital and intensive care due to the novel coronavirus. From a peak of about 950 patients in hospital, we are down to 257 today, with Covid-19.”

That number is about 200 patients below the threshold number the province set for entering step two. In addition, long-term care and designated supportive living facilities have also seen the number of cases make a sharp decline. Active cases in long-term care facilities have now decreased by more than 95 per cent from December’s peak, and active cases in designated supportive living facilities for seniors has also dropped by over 92 per cent, noted Kenney.

Step one in Alberta’s path forward began on Feb. 8 and since then, the province has seen a continual decline in Covid-19 hospital cases, including those in intensive care.

“All of which means, we’re not out of the woods, but we can continue taking small steps forward, as we go into step two,” said Kenney. “Effective today (March 1), targeted health measures will be eased for indoor fitness activities and for libraries. As a cautionary measure, possible changes to current restrictions for retail, hotels, banquets, community halls and conference centres have been delayed, given that we have seen a small recent increase in the testing positivity rate and the number of active cases,” explained Kenney.

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In addition, the premier noted a small increase in the daily number of new variant cases, and while many Albertans wanted to see the government relax more restrictions in step two, Kenney stressed the need to prevent sudden outbreaks of Covid-19.

“We cannot and we must not allow exponential growth to start to take hold, driven by these new, more contagious variants as we’ve seen in many countries around the world,” he said. “To do so would end up in weeks, jeopardizing our healthcare system so we must take a balanced approach and move carefully and safely, focused on the data and with the expert advice that we’ve received from the chief medical officer and the public health team.”

Kenney also pointed to the need to acquire more vaccines to help fight the coronavirus, and shared his frustration with the federal government.

“It is incredibly frustrating and totally unacceptable that Canada is ranked 40th in the world for per capita inoculation against this virus. Widespread use of the vaccine will mean freedom,” explained Kenney. “Which is why we renew our urgent call on the federal governement to catch up with the rest of the world in vaccine procurement.”

As of Feb. 28, 235,508 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Alberta and there are now 88,145 Albertans fully vaccinated with two doses.

Alberta’s phased approach to vaccination focuses first on priority health-care workers and those who are at highest risk of severe outcomes. Albertans born in 1946 or earlier are now able to book their appointment.

kjean@postmedia.com

http://twitter.com/globetrekker360

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