Alberta will adopt new “targeted” public-health measures in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, Premier Jason Kenney says.
The province reported 2,048 new cases on Thursday, the highest single-day total since the pandemic began in March 2020.
“Effective tomorrow, we are implementing targeted public-health measures for hot spots across the province,” Kenney said at a news conference. “These are communities or regions where there are more than 350 active cases per 100,000 people and that have a floor of at least 250 total active cases.
The list of targets includes Fort McMurray, Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Airdrie and Lethbridge, along with Strathcona County, Kenney said.
“This means that we’ll be moving all junior and senior high schools to at-home learning in these communities starting this upcoming Monday. Some of these schools will have already shifted to online learning, and the rest will join them in those areas.”
Indoor fitness and indoor sports will be shut down effective Friday. The mandatory restrictions will remain in effect for a minimum of two weeks, Kenney said.
“After two weeks, communities will go back to the provincial measures, currently Step 1, as soon as they dip below the 350 case rate per 100,000,” the premier said.
Health officials will assess how the new measures are working, he said.
“Where needed, we will implement a curfew where case rates are significantly high, specifically if cases are 1,000 or more per 100,000 population, and in cases where the municipal government requests it.”
Latest case counts
The number of active cases hit 21,385 on Thursday, an increase of 447 from the day before. During the second wave, active cases in the province peaked at 20,976 on Dec. 13.
Another 1,329 cases of highly contagious variants of concern were also reported. Variants now account for 62 per cent of all active cases in the province
Alberta hospitals were treating 632 patients with COVID-19, a slight decline from the day before. But there were 151 patients in ICU beds, an increase of six.
“I wanted to take a moment to underscore the gravity of the situation that we’re in today, and how bad things could get if Albertans don’t make a real effort in the next few weeks,” Kenney said. “Because we already have very strong public health measures in place, and we are only able to identify about five per cent of our traceable cases to workplaces.”
People who don’t comply with health measures now risk being unable to renew their driver’s licence or complete other transactions at registry services if they don’t pay their fines, he said.
“This is for the people who aren’t taking the pandemic seriously and continue to put others at risk by not following the public health orders in place.”
‘We can get past this’
The vast majority of transmission continues to happen at home and through social activity, he said.
“I once again call on all Albertans, please, if you need to, go back and study once again what the restrictions are that are in place. Please follow them so we do not have to come in with yet another round of even tougher restrictions.
“If Albertans take this seriously — and I think that more stringent measures like this can at least get people’s attention, that this really matters — and if people follow what we’re calling them to do, especially in those areas where there is a surge in cases right now, we can get past this and let the vaccine start to beat the variants, I think by a month from now.”
Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, also spoke at the news conference.
Premier <a href=”https://twitter.com/jkenney?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@jkenney</a> will join <a href=”https://twitter.com/CMOH_Alberta?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CMOH_Alberta</a> this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. to make an announcement on Alberta’s COVID-19 public health measures.
The Alberta government implemented a previous round of restrictions on businesses and public gatherings three weeks ago, in an effort to keep the caseload from swamping the health-care system.