e up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

e up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta flexes COVID-19 rules for gyms, libraries, delays other reopenings

291 new cases of the virus reported Monday

EDMONTON — Alberta is opening up libraries and allowing low-intensity indoor group fitness workouts, like Pilates and tai chi, while it continues to monitor rates of COVID-19.

The change is a fraction of what had been expected under the second phase of the province’s economic relaunch plan.

That phase was also to include expanded crowds in retail stores and eased restrictions on hotels, conference centres and community halls.

But Premier Jason Kenney said with case numbers starting to plateau and the danger of COVID-19 variants spreading exponentially, those other changes are on hold.

“We’re not out of the woods, but we can continue taking small steps forward,” Kenney told a news conference Monday.

“We cannot and we must not allow exponential growth to start to take hold, driven by these new more contagious variants, as we’ve seen in many countries around the world.

“To do so would end up in weeks jeopardizing our health-care system.”

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said libraries can open at 15 per cent capacity, noting the facilities are critical, especially in rural areas where access to high-speed internet might be limited.

Three weeks ago, the government began to allow one-on-one fitness training and some group sports activities for youth.

Shandro said the province is adding to that, allowing low-intensity group indoor activities, including Pilates, tai chi, yoga, barre, weightlifting and indoor climbing, subject to distancing and masking rules.

However, high-intensity workouts, such as running on treadmills, are too risky and remain banned.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, reported 291 new cases of the virus Monday. There were 257 people in hospital, 48 of them in intensive care, well down from the 900-plus people in hospital two months ago.

Alberta’s testing positivity rate, as low as 3.2 per cent three weeks ago, is now routinely above four per cent and was 4.9 per cent Monday.

There were 35 new variant cases, pushing that total in Alberta to 457. The virus reproduction rate, known as the R-value, remained slightly above one, suggesting transmission rates remain on the rise.

Alberta is well into its second round of economic lockdowns tied to the second wave of the novel coronavirus.

The latest round was launched in mid-December, as case rates soared, forcing hospitals to cancel non-urgent surgeries and reassign patients and staff. A field hospital was prepped at the University of Alberta.

Since then, the province has been easing the rules — too much for some critics, such as the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association, and too little for others, including outspoken backbench members of Kenney’s own United Conservative caucus.

Retail shops and worship services are open at 15 per cent capacity. A ban remains on indoor gatherings, as Kenney says about 30 per cent of known transmissions are coming from these settings.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people.

In the first of the province’s four-step plan to reopen the economy, restaurants were able to reopen to dine-in service, and one-on-one training was allowed to resume for sports and dance. Some restrictions were lifted on youth sports both in and out of school.

Kenney said the long-term solution remains getting more Albertans vaccinated and urged the federal government to push for more doses.

About 235,000 Albertans have received a vaccine shot, including 88,000 who have the required two doses.

Alberta has already vaccinated its highest-risk patients — those in long-term care and designated supportive living facilities — and is well into next priority cases.

It is booking appointments for seniors older than 75 and for those in First Nations older than 65. Residents in other care homes, such as seniors lodges, are also being vaccinated.

The federal government approved last week a third vaccine, Oxford-AstraZeneca. However, the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations is not recommending the vaccine for those over 65, as data is limited on how well it works in older populations.

Shandro said Alberta will take that advice. “How that will change the administration of those who are in (the current vaccination phase) is still to be determined,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.

AlbertaBusinessCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read