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Friday , 24 September 2021

Alberta back to masks for all indoor public spaces and workplaces starting Sept. 4

Further actions to protect health system from COVID-19 in Alberta will Start on Saturday September 4. The Government of Alberta says due to increasing COVID-19 transmission and rising hospital admissions, overwhelmingly amongst unvaccinated Albertans, temporary measures are needed to reduce transmission and prevent the health-care system from being overwhelmed.

Currently, more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases in hospital are unvaccinated, including 91 per cent of patients in intensive care.

“Vaccines are safe, effective, and a game-changer,” Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health said. “This is why the current wave is different than what we’ve experienced before. While we do not need to return to the same widespread and dramatic measures we had in place earlier in the pandemic, unvaccinated Albertans in particular are still at risk and are placing a heavy load on our health-care system. This is why we are taking measured steps and introducing a new incentive program to encourage more Albertans to get the jab.”

The province will make masks mandatory for all indoor public spaces and workplaces starting Sept. 4 at 8:00 a.m. Schools are not required to implement masking but school boards will continue to set COVID-19 management policies as they deem appropriate.“As I have always done, I use the best currently available evidence from Alberta and around the world to inform my recommendations to protect the health of Albertans,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health said. “With hospitalization rates rising, it is important that we take additional steps to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. My ultimate goal continues to be to shift from pandemic to endemic and put more focus on the complete health of Albertans – we must learn to live with COVID. Getting vaccinated today is the best possible way for us to get there.”

As of Sept. 4 at 8:00 a.m., restaurants, cafés, bars, pubs, nightclubs and other licensed establishments will be required to end alcohol service at 10:00 p.m.

In addition, Albertans are encouraged to limit in-person contacts. To support this, the province strongly recommends that unvaccinated Albertans limit their indoor social gatherings to close contacts of only two cohort families up to a maximum of ten people.

It is also recommended that employers pause their plans to have staff return to work and instead continue with work-from-home measures. If employees are working on location, employees must mask for all indoor settings, except in work stations or where two-metre physical distancing or adequate physical barriers are in place.

The government says based on information available in mid-August, an updated projection of estimated COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations to the end of September was developed. Current actual data is trending toward the high end of the projections, therefore numbers may exceed the projections. Peaks in the model are only estimates, and actual peaks may be higher and later than anticipated if current growth trends continue.

This provincial modelling shows intensive care unit patients could possibly peak at around 180 in the medium scenario, although if accelerating trends continue, numbers could reach or exceed the currently projected high scenario at 290.

Other hospitalizations (non-ICU) are currently trending toward the high scenario, with a potential peak of 700 in the next several weeks. If the high scenario peaks are reached, this would mean a greater combined impact on the acute care system than in all previous waves, and if changes in transmission cause greater spread, these numbers could be exceeded.

Modelling is for the entire province. Some regions will experience different case and hospitalization statistics per capita; this will particularly be expected in those areas with lower rates of vaccinations.

Modelling is a dynamic process where there are constant comparisons against observations versus projections. When these comparisons deviate, the model assumptions are re-evaluated, which may change with new information such as outbreak events.

This modelling is now available online. A separate evidence summary has also been posted, including key assumptions and considerations, hospital impact modelling that was developed in June to inform changes announced in late July, and a reference list for further reading.

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About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is from Whitbourne Newfoundland and graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner!