by Stephen Dafoe
Premier Jason Kenney took part in a pushed back COVID-19 update Friday to say the province was easing off more restrictions amid falling COVID-19 numbers.
Restaurants, cafes, and pubs closed to in-person dining before Christmas and gyms will now be allowed to reopen as of Monday, Feb. 8, with limitations.
Recently, several restaurants in Alberta, many at the point of closing forever, defied government shutdowns and began seating diners. A social media movement started soon after with people travelling some distance to support those who fought the orders.
Friday’s announcement now allows restaurants to resume in-person dining under the following restrictions:
- Maximum of 6 people per table; individuals must be from same household or the 2 close contacts for people living alone
- Contact information must be collected from one person of the dining party
- Liquor service ends at 10 pm
- In-person dining must close by 11 pm
- No entertainment allowed (e.g., no VLTs, pool tables, live music, etc.)
Coach’s Corner owner Kal McDonald, who Morinville Online’s Theron Hogg recently interviewed for a three-part series on the impacts of COVID-19 shutdowns, said Friday’s announcement was the right move.
“[We] will be ready to greet all of our loyal customers and help getting our community back on track, helping those who are in need and getting our staff back to work. And I can’t wait to see and greet everyone,” McDonald said.
“It is the right move by the government. At this point, every month gets that much harder on myself, my family, my staff, their families and our patrons to have a place to go and unwind.”
Gyms to reopen with limited capacity
The announcement also allows gyms to reopen under the following restrictions:
Group or team sports not permitted
- No sports games, competitions, team practice, league play or group exercise of any kind is allowed.
One-on-one training is permitted
- Only one-on-one training is permitted for indoor fitness activities (e.g. fitness in dance studios, training figure skating on ice, one-on-one lessons).
- Sessions have to be scheduled or by appointment. No drop-in or groups allowed.
- One-on-one sessions cannot interact with others, and there must be a minimum of 3 metres distance between sessions in the same facility.
- Trainers must be professional, certified and/or paid trainers who are providing active instruction and correction. Passive supervision of a physical activity is not considered training.
- Trainers should remain masked during the session; clients are not required to wear a mask while exercising
- More than one trainer and client ‘pair’ are allowed into the facility, studio, rink, court, pool, ice surface, etc. so long as:
- Each trainer and client stays 3 metres away from all other trainers and clients at all times, including in entryways and exits.
- Each trainer can only interact with their assigned client, and each client can only interact with their assigned trainer.
- No interaction between clients or between trainers is allowed.
- No ‘cycling through’ multiple trainers as in circuit training.
Scott Wallace, owner of Crusher’s Supplements in Morinville and a strong advocate for reopening gyms, said he was pleased with the announcement.
“I am super excited that Alberta has decided to reopen gyms,” Wallace said. “This means a lot to so many people for their physical and mental health. People need this right now more than ever to be able to go and get back into their healthy lifestyle.”
Wallace noted he plans to have a return-to-the-gym sale for his customers starting the same days as gyms reopen.
Numbers and Hospitalizations on the Decline
In his press conference Friday, Premier Kenney said hospitalizations would be the benchmark metric to move between four steps of loosening restrictions. A period of three weeks must occur between moving between stages so that government can assess the impact of each reopening step.
Step 1, which commences Feb. 8 with restaurants and gyms, occurs when hospitalizations are below 600. As of Friday, hospitalizations were at 594, with 110 in ICU.
Step 2 will be triggered when hospitalizations are below 450. This step would see an easing of restrictions on retail, community halls, hotels, banquet halls, and conference centres.
Step 3 will be triggered when hospitalizations are below 300. This step will include easing restrictions on places of worship, adult team sports, indoor social gatherings, indoor seating events, casinos, libraries and other facilities.
Step 4, triggered when hospitalizations drop below 150, would open various activities, including live performances, festivals and tradeshows, and weddings, day camps and overnight camps.
“This roadmap sets out a clear path for when and how Albertans will see some easing of health measures,” Kenney said. “By outlining the benchmarks we must achieve to see more re-openings, we are offering hope and a path forward. But we have to proceed with caution. This stepped approach will only work if Albertans continue to follow existing health measures and make good choices to keep our numbers trending down. It’s up to each one of us to maintain our vigilance.”
Provincially, the latest R-value is .81 (Jan. 18 – 24). The R-value indicates the number of people an infected person is likely to infect. An R-value below 1 means the spread of the virus is in decline. An R-value above 1 indicates the spread of the virus is on the rise.
As of Friday’s government update, Morinville had seven new cases, no recoveries, for a total of 26 active cases. Sturgeon County had two new cases, one more recovery for a total of 19 active cases.
Sturgeon County has had a total of two deaths to date, while Morinville has had 10 deaths. Morinville’s number includes those living in the community as well as anyone with a PO box in Morinville.
For complete details on provincial numbers, including total active cases, recoveries, lab testing data and comorbidities, visit https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm.