Press Release from Province of Alberta at 4:35pm on March 13, 2020
Schools - The Emergency Management Cabinet Committee is recommending schools remain open with mitigations in place to protect the health of Alberta teachers and students. All publicly funded schools will remain open at this time, provided steps are taken to eliminate large congregations of students. No more than 250 people should be in the same room at any time. Additionally, it is recommended that sports and other extracurricular activities that involve physical contact be cancelled as an additional precaution.Post-secondary institutions have not been advised to close at this time. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health “I understand and appreciate many Albertans are concerned about their children and the risk of COVID-19. Students should not be worried about attending class at this time. However, I encourage school boards to take these precautions and remind your staff and students about the personal steps they too can take to protect themselves from COVID-19.”
For additional advice, a guidance document for schools and child care programs is in development and will be made available online at alberta.ca/COVID19.
Changes to employment rules - Government is acting quickly to improve employment rules to protect Albertans by implementing paid job-protected leave. Changes to the Employment Standards Code will allow employees who are required to self-isolate or are caring for a loved one with COVID-19 to take 14 days of paid job-protected leave to cover the self-isolation period being recommended by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.There will be no requirement to have a medical note for such leave or to have worked for an employer for 90 days to qualify for such leave.The details of how these changes will be administered will be provided in the coming days. We recognize this could put pressure on employers. As we work through the details, we are keeping this in mind and working toward solutions to address these challenges. Jason Kenney, Premier “We are taking COVID-19 extremely seriously and acting quickly to improve employment rules. That is why we are offering paid sick leave to help contain the spread of the virus. No one should have to choose between work and taking care of their health. We are all in this together to ensure workplaces are safe and the spread of COVID-19 is mitigated.”
New cases of COVID-19 - Six additional cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 29. All cases are travel-related.One of the cases involves a man from the Edmonton zone who recently attended a conference in Vancouver and was notified that a positive case had attended the same conference. After returning, the individual visited a number of dental offices. As soon as this case tested positive, health officials took immediate action to protect the health of Albertans. All contacts who may have been at risk of exposure have been contacted for follow-up assessment and testing.The other cases are in the Calgary zone and include a returning traveller from Florida, and four household contacts of a previously confirmed case. All new cases are now self-isolated at home and expected to make a full recovery. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health “This latest case of an individual who contracted COVID-19 at a conference indicates the risk of large mass gatherings, especially when they might involve international participants. This confirms our recommendation on mass gatherings was the right approach. We will continue to take any steps necessary to protect your health.”
Health Link 811 call volume and testing - Health Link continues to experience high call volumes, regularly receiving more than 6,300 calls daily. To help manage wait times, AHS has doubled Health Link staff and tripled call line capacity. AHS will also be making available shortly a new online assessment tool. This tool will guide Albertans to answer questions about symptoms and take them through steps to help determine whether they need testing.Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health “I understand and have heard from Albertans who are frustrated about the time it takes to reach a Health Link operator. I urge Albertans to please continue being patient and to stay on the line. We will continue to work to manage Health Link wait times and ensure Albertans can get access to testing promptly.” Albertans can help call volumes by: visiting alberta.ca/COVID19 for information if you don’t have symptoms or need a health assessment, calling Health Link during non-peak times, and not calling Health Link if you are awaiting COVID-19 test results. If you’ve been tested for COVID-19, you will be called directly with your test results. Albertans should only call 911 if it is a life-threatening emergency situation. Do not call 911 if you cannot get through right away to Health Link.
Mass gatherings and recommended travel advice - Effective March 12, health officials called for all large gatherings or international events in the province to be cancelled and advised Albertans against travel outside of the country. Alberta is asking organizers to cancel any events that have more than 250 attendees. This includes large sporting events. Any event that has more than 50 attendees and expects to have international participants, or involves critical infrastructure staff, seniors, or other high-risk populations should also be cancelled. Events that do not meet these criteria can proceed, but risk mitigation must be in place, such as sanitizer stations and distancing between attendees.
Travel outside of the country is not being recommended at this time. Given the rapid global spread of the virus, it is no longer possible to assess health risks for the duration of the trip. Additionally, public health officials are recommending that any traveller returning from outside of the country should self-isolate for 14 days, even if they are feeling well, and monitor for symptoms. Any traveller who has returned before March 12 is not advised to self-isolate unless they have returned from Italy, Iran, China’s Hubei province or the Grand Princess cruise ship. If symptoms do emerge, individuals are asked to call Health Link 811 for follow-up assessment and testing.