On November 27, Premier Jason Kenney asked Albertans to take personal responsibility to support efforts to slow the rate of positive COVID-19 cases spiking over the fall months. He shut down kid’s sports, reduced restaurant dining to five members of the same family and ordered bars and restaurants to cease liquor service at 10pm and close at 11pm. The Premier called these measures necessary and highlighted that he did not want to infringe on personal rights and freedoms. His tune changed today, after weeks of positive case numbers skyrocketed to new heights.
The NDP official opposition have called for a full provincial mask restriction for weeks, but Kenney maintained that measure was not necessary. Until today. Over the weekend, sources close to the COVID-19 cabinet committee shared with us that without taking further measures modelling showed positive case counts could be up to 4,000 a day by January 1. The government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health took the bold steps today to increase restrictions for the next four weeks to stem the tide of positive COVID-19 cases. Kenney stated that the announced restrictions are a compromise allowing many businesses to stay open at 15 per cent capacity while increased restrictions can meet public health objectives. Some of the announced restrictions are effective immediately and others will be put into effect as of 12:01 am on December 13. The factors for lifting the restrictions will depend on measured success in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Effective immediately, the following restrictions are in place:
Mandatory Mask Requirement
- The mandatory indoor public masking requirement will be extended province-wide.
- Public spaces include locations where a business or entity operates and is applicable to employees, visitors and the general public.
- Applies to all indoor workplaces and facilities outside the home.
- Farm operations are excluded.
- Rental accommodations used solely for the purposes of a private residence are excluded.
- All indoor and outdoor social gatherings, public and private are prohibited.
- Close contacts are limited to household members only.
- Festivals, parades, events, concerts, exhibitions, competitions, sport and performance remain prohibited.
Effective December 13 at 12:01 am the following restrictions will be in place:
Places of Worship
- All places of worship will be limited to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy for in-person attendance.
- Virtual or online services are strongly encouraged.
- Drive-in services where individuals do not leave their vehicles and adhere to guidance will be permissible and are not subject to capacity restrictions.
- Mandatory mask mandate, physical distancing and other guidelines remain in place.
- Retail services must reduce customer capacity to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy, or a minimum of five customers, whichever is greater.
- Curbside pickup, delivery and online services are encouraged.
- Shopping malls will be limited to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy.
Health Care Services
- Health services, including physiotherapy or acupuncture, social or protective services, shelters for vulnerable persons, emergency services, childcare, and not-for-profit community kitchens or charitable kitchens will remain open for in-person attendance.
Work from home
- Mandatory work from home measures will be implemented unless the employer determines that work requires a physical presence for operational effectiveness.
- Restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes will be closed to in-person service.
- Only takeout, curbside pickup and delivery services are permitted.
- Casinos, bingo halls, gaming entertainment centers, racing entertainment centers, horse tracks, raceways, bowling alleys, pool halls, legions, and private clubs will be closed.
- Recreational facilities – fitness centers, recreation centers, pools, spas, gyms, studios, day and overnight camps, indoor rinks and arenas – will be closed.
- Outdoor recreation is permitted, but facilities with indoor spaces except for washrooms will be closed.
- Entertainment businesses and entities – libraries, science centers, interpretive centers, museums, galleries, amusement parks and water parks – will be closed.
- Hotels may remain open but must follow restrictions – no spas, pools or in-person dining. Room services only.
- Personal and wellness services, including hair salons, nail salons, massage, tattoos, and piercing, will be closed.
Closures – ongoing from November 27
- Entertainment businesses and entities; community halls and centers, indoor children’s play centers and indoor playgrounds, theatres, auditoriums, concert halls, and community theatres, nightclubs, banquet halls and conference centers, indoor and outdoor festivals, concerts with the exception of drive-in events, tradeshows, and sporting events or competitions, remain closed.
New Economic Measures
Through the pandemic, the Government of Alberta has provided support for small businesses and today announced an expanded Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant. The grant offers financial assistance to Alberta businesses, cooperatives, and non-profit organizations with fewer than 500 employees that faced restrictions or closures from public health orders.
The new Relaunch Grant features a lower threshold and increased grant amount; the government estimates that up to 15,000 more businesses may be eligible for funding. Applications for the second payment will open this month and will remain open until March 31, 2021 unless otherwise indicated.
- In November, the government announced that Alberta businesses were eligible to apply for a second payment through the program.
- This second payment is set at 15 per cent of pre-pandemic monthly revenues up to a maximum of $15,000 – for a total of $20,000; available to businesses operating in areas on the provincial watch list.
- The program is expanded to include job creators who have experienced a 30 per cent revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The threshold for the program has been lowered from 40 to 30 per cent; available to impacted businesses retroactive to March.
- Job creators meeting the eligibility criteria can apply for 15 per cent of their pre-COVID-19 monthly revenue up to a maximum of $20,000 since the program launched.
- To ensure Alberta businesses have appropriate supports, the government has increased the program budget to $500 million.
Use of the funds
- Businesses can use the funding as they choose to offset the costs incurred as a result of the pandemic restrictions.
- This includes the costs of implementing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including PPE and cleaning supplies, as well as rent, employee wages, or inventory.
- The funds can be used to expand their online presence or e-commerce opportunities to continue to serve customers.
More information on the enhanced measures can be found here and more information on the economic measures can be found here.