People who live alone in Alberta will be allowed to attend one event at another household over the coming holiday long weekend, says Premier Jason Kenney.
A change to public health restrictions will allow these Albertans to visit another home once between Dec. 23 and Dec. 28, the premier announced Tuesday at a news conference.
“This is a small change that was just adopted based on advice from the minister of health, with input from the chief medical officer, by the COVID cabinet committee, and it will make a world of difference for single Albertans who otherwise would not be able to visit their families over Christmas,” Kenney said.
“Similarly, it will allow parents who would otherwise spend Christmas alone to welcome their children home for the holidays,” Kenney said, before cautioning: “Please know that the prohibition on large social gatherings remains over Christmas, and I regret that we could not make broader exemptions for holiday gatherings.”
During that time period, households may host up to two single people for an event, he said.
Alberta reported 11 more deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total to 871. The province had 18,311 active cases, continuing the downward trend that has been seen for more than a week.
Across the province, 802 people were in hospital for the illness, including 152 who are being treated in intensive care units.
Kenney said the province has made “tremendous progress” in fighting COVID-19 over the last couple of weeks.
The huge spike in cases seen over the past two months clearly began around dining room tables at Thanksgiving or during other gatherings where people did not expect would become a source of transmission, he said.
Many of the people who attended those gatherings went on to become hospitalized. Some even died, he said.
“If we were to gather in typical large extended-family gatherings over the holidays, beginning with 800 people in hospital, there is absolutely no doubt that we would lose all of the progress that we have made in recent weeks,” he said.
“We would be back into exponential growth, and it wouldn’t take very much for those 800 cases in hospital to turn into 1,600, and for the 1,600 to turn into 3,200, and at that point we would be completely overwhelming our health-care system.”
The premier was joined at a news conference by Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
Active cases of the illness in Alberta have been slowly declining over the past week. The 1,240 new cases of COVID-19 announced on Monday was the lowest daily increase in new cases since Nov. 27, when the province reported 1,227.
Hinshaw on Monday said it’s a positive trend but the situation remains serious.
High case numbers in Alberta have put the health-care system under severe strain, she said.
“We must redouble our efforts and celebrate this early trend downwards by continuing the actions that will eventually bring our hospitalization and ICU numbers low enough to support access to the system for all health-care needs,” Hinshaw said Monday.
Hinshaw urged Albertans to follow health restrictions and not let down their guard during the holidays.
“This week is another test for our province. … We know that celebrations can quickly turn to outbreaks if we fail to take the right precautions.”