COVID-19: Complying with Alberta’s Public Health Orders – What it Means for Individuals and Businesses

Update: Alberta’s state of emergency has been lifted as of June 15, 2020. This means that orders enabled by the Declaration of Emergency will expire by mid-August, unless otherwise extended by the legislature.

In response to increasing numbers of cases of COVID-19 within the province, the government of Alberta has declared a public health emergency under s. 52.1 of the Public Health Act.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Alberta invoked s. 29(2.1) of the Public Health Act, which provides that when an investigation confirms the existence of a public health emergency, the Chief Medical Officer of Health (Dr. Deena Hinshaw) may take any steps the medical health officer believes are necessary in order to lessen the impact of the public health emergency.

Albertans should be aware of the following public health orders passed pursuant to s. 29(2.1) of the Public Health Act, as well as other restrictions and information provided by the government of Alberta. Further, anyone who violates the following restrictions or public health orders may be subject to a fine up to $1,000 per occurrence. Courts also have increased powers to administer fines up to $100,000 for a first occurrence, and up to $500,000 for subsequent offences, or more serious violations (Ministerial Order 613/2020 (Health)).

Note: this blog has been updated as of April 13, 2020 to include continuous amendments to orders, recently announced orders and updates to restrictions.

Health Orders

The government of Alberta has issued various Chief Medical Officer of Health (“CMOH”) orders, as well as ministerial orders that deal with specific legislation. The following is a summary of the more important orders, but a full updated list of all public health orders can be found here.

CMOH Orders

CMOH Order 05-5020 – March 25, 2020. The CMOH requires any person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 to be in isolation for a minimum of 10 days from the start of his or her symptoms, or until symptoms cease, whichever is longer. Also, any person returning to Alberta after having travelled internationally, and any person who was/is in close contact with a person who is confirmed as having COVID-19, is required to be in quarantine for a minimum 14-day period. More information regarding self-isolation is provided below.

CMOH Order 07-2020 – March 27, 2020. The CMOH outlines new restrictions and prohibitions to protect Albertans and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • Outdoor places and gatherings: Albertans are prohibited from attending gatherings of more than 15 people, and they must continue to observe two meters of social distancing.
  • The 15-person limitation applies to any type of public or private gathering, including but not limited to, wedding, funerals, religious services, informal events, etc.
  • Places of business: The following types of non-essential places of business are no longer permitted to provide or offer services to the public: (a) non-essential health services, (b) personal services, (c) wellness services, and (d) any retail stores providing any non-essential goods or services.
  • For the purpose of this order, an essential service is a service considered critical to preserving life, health, public safety, and basic societal functioning.
  • On April 4, 2020, the CMOH has amended the order to exempt members of the same household from section 2 thereby permitting them to gather outdoors.
  • Restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, food courts and other food-serving facilities, can continue to provide take-out, drive thru and food delivery services only. No dine-in services are permitted to be offered or provided.
  • Any health professional may provide or offer non-essential health services if it is deemed an emergency.

CMOH Order 04-2020 – March 20, 2020. Amends CMOH Order 01-2020 to allow attendance at child care services for the following: receiving, offering or providing specific listed child care programs to a child/children of essential services worker, providing emergency health or safety services in the event of an emergency, or undertaking an inspection under the Child Care Licensing Act or the Public Health Act.

Orders Related to Health Facilities

CMOH Order 03-2020 – March 20, 2020. The CMOH prohibits visitors from attending public health facilities except to visit a dying resident. Notwithstanding the prohibition, a resident of a public health facility can designate one individual as an “essential visitor” who will be entitled to visit the resident at the public health facility.

CMOH Order 09-2020 – April 7, 2020. The CMOH has established further restrictions on visitors at health care facilities in Alberta, for the purpose of lessening the impact of the public health emergency caused by the prevalence of COVID-19 in Alberta. Notably, the essential visitor is limited to visiting to provide essential care that would not otherwise be provided or if the resident is dying.

Note: This record of decision rescinds the previous record of decision in CMOH Order 03-2020.

CMOH Order 06-2020 – March 25, 2020. The CMOH creates operational requirements for all licensed supportive living, long-term care facilities and service providers licensed under the Mental Health Services Protection Act in Alberta who are not experiencing an outbreak. These requirements are in addition to those made under CMOH Order 03-2020.

CMOH Order 08-2020 – April 2, 2020. The CMOH creates operational requirements for all licensed supportive living, long-term care facilities and service providers licensed under the Mental Health Services Protection Act in Alberta where there is a suspected, probable or confirmed outbreak. These requirements are in addition to those made under CMOH Order 03-2020 and CMOH Order 06-2020.

CMOH Order 10-2020 – April 10, 2020. Effective April 23, 2020, the CMOH restricts the movement of staff between health care facilities by requiring staff to work solely at one auxiliary hospital, nursing home, or supportive living accommodation. The CMOH amends CMOH Order 06-2020 and CMOH Order 08-2020 creating additional requirements for residents and staff to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to quickly detect the same.

Labour and Immigration Order 22-2020 – April 10, 2020. This order was made by the Minister of Labour and Immigration to ensure employer compliance with CMOH Order 10-2020 notwithstanding any provision of the Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code. It sets out requirements for employers whose employees will have to select a single worksite or employer.

Ministerial Orders

Environment and Parks Ministerial Orders. The Minister of Environment and Parks has modified, amended, and enacted various regulations and orders continuously:

  • (17/2020): modified various reporting requirements under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, the Water Act, and the Public Lands Act, because of circumstances arising as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • (16/2020): modified various report submission deadlines under the Renewable Fuels Standard Regulation.
  • (15/2020): modified the deadlines for submission of compliance reports and emission reduction plans under the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Regulations from March 31, 2020 to June 30, 2020.
  • (19/2020): established the Public Land Access Restriction Order prohibiting public access to any building and facility, or the operation or parking of a motor vehicle on certain public lands (with exceptions).
  • (18/2020): established the Provincial Park and Recreation Area Access Restriction Order prohibiting public access to any building and facility, or the operation or parking of a motor vehicle on provincial parks or recreation areas (with exceptions).
  • AEP Response to COVID-19: as of March 31, 2020, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) recognizes the potential impact of the ongoing COVID-19 situation on industrial operations and Alberta airsheds and has decided to amend select Air Monitoring Directive (AMD) requirements on a temporary basis. The intent of this interim policy is to alleviate potential pressures on industrial operations and airsheds while still ensuring Albertans and Regulators have access to quality assured air quality information. The amendments will allow impacted operators to focus resources.
  • (20/2020): as of March 30, 2020, this order repeals Order 19/2020 but continues to limit public access to public lands.

Service Alberta Ministerial Orders. The Minister of Service Alberta continue to modify and amend the Residential Tenancies Act (“RTA”) and the Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Act (“MHSTA”).

  • SA: 008/2020. Temporarily allows the Land Titles Office to register documents that have been witnessed, sworn or affirmed by Alberta lawyers using two-way videoconferencing as of March 31, 2020.
  • SA: 006/2020. Suspends the increase or changes on rent under RTA and MHSTA
  • SA: 005/2020. Requires landlords to make reasonable efforts to enter into a payment plan for the tenants, and the landlord may not terminate the rental agreement if there is a violation under the tenancy agreement where the violation pertains to payments in arrears for rent or utilities under RTA and MHSTA.
  • SA: 004/2020 (and 003/2020). Modifies MHSTA and RTA, to state that late fees in tenancy agreements shall not be payable by the tenant during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is set as April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020.

Justice and Solicitor General Ministerial Orders. The Minister of Justice and Solicitor General enacted various regulations and orders on March 30, 2020.

  • (27/2020): suspension of limitation periods and periods of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding or intended proceeding before a Court in Alberta, from March 17 to June 1, 2020, due to conditions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • (25/2020):extending expiry dates for licences under the Security Services and Investigations Act, during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public Health Ministerial Orders. The Public Minister of Health has modified, amended, and enacted various regulations and health orders continuously:

  • O. 616/2020 – April 4, 2020. Establishes that the Calgary Homeless Foundation and HomeSpace Society are to operate Lakeview Signature Suites as an isolation centre to serve individuals experiencing homelessness or who are home insecure, and have tested positive for COVID-19 or are suspected of having contracted COVID-19
  • O. 613/2020 – March 26, 2020. Fines were increased for violations of the Public Health Act during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • O. 615/2020 – April 2, 2020. This order repeals M.O. 613/2020, following the passage of the Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act, 2020.
  • O. 612/2020 – March 25, 2020. Section 33 has been modified to a person infected with a communicable disease and person who is suffering from a communicable disease means a person returning from travelling internationally, being in close contact of a person confirmed as a having COVID-19, and any person experiencing cough; fever; shortness of breath; runny nose; or sore throat. Section 1 was amended to include the meaning of close contact as a person who provides care, lives with, or has close physical contact without protective equipment with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, and a person who comes in direct contact with body fluids with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.

Labour and Immigration Ministerial Orders. The Minister of Labour and Immigration modified the Employment Standards Code and the Employment Standards Regulations.

  • (18.2020): as of April 6, 2020, there is a temporary change for certain employment standards rules to help employers and employees adjust to rapidly-changing workplace conditions due to COVID-19. The changes include a new job-protected leave for employees, scheduling flexibility, group termination notice requirements and a streamlined approval process for modifying employment standards rules.

Children’s Services Ministerial Orders. The Minister of Children’s Services modified, amended, and enacted various regulations and orders:

  • (2020-03):sets out more stringent regulatory requirements for child care programs that may be operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Includes a screening questionnaire for any essential visitors and guidance for food handling.
  • (2020-04):exempts holders of a child care program licence from the fee usually required to renew the licence, during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Energy Ministerial Orders. The Minister of Energy suspended specific legislation as of April 6, 2020.

  • (219/2020): immediately suspends specific legislated reporting requirements for energy companies under the Coal Conservation Act, the Oil and Gas Conservation Act and the Oil Sands Conservation Act. The modifications in the order will not defer or remove any monitoring requirements that ensure Alberta’s public safety, and environmental protection, as well as reporting required for royalty calculation and collection.

Transportation Ministerial Orders. The Minister of Transportation temporarily modified and suspended parts of the Traffic Safety Act, Drivers’ Hours of Service Regulation, Commercial Vehicle Dimension and Weight Regulation, Commercial Vehicle Certificate and Insurance Regulation, and Vehicle Inspection Regulation as of April 2, 2020.

  • (23/20): extends the filing deadlines for the Alberta Transportation Safety Board as well as deadlines for inspection certificates for salvage motor vehicles, out of province motor vehicles, and commercial vehicles; and reduces restrictions for commercial vehicles transporting essential supplies and equipment in direct response to COVID-19 including exempting certain vehicles from weight restrictions, parking restrictions, and municipal and provincial road bans.
  • (24/20): suspends requirements for safety audits, approval renewals, and various on the job competency tests under the Railway Regulation, the Industrial Railway Regulation and the Heritage Railway Regulation.

Additional Restrictions, Resources & Information for Businesses

Mandatory Self-isolation

Effective March 25, 2020, the CMOH defined self-isolation to include the following restrictions: remaining at home; maintaining two-metres distance from others at all times; not attending work, school, social events or any other public gatherings; and not taking public transportation. In addition, the CMOH indicated that quarantine means the restriction and requirements of remaining at home, not attending work, school, social events or any other public gatherings, not taking public transit and watching for symptoms.

The CMOH also defined close contact to mean a person who comes into direct contact with body fluids of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, and those who provide care, lives with, or has physical contact without appropriate use of protective equipment with a person confirmed to have COVID-19.

The following persons are required to self-isolate:

  • Persons who have travelled internationally: All persons who have returned from travel outside of Canada after March 12, 2020 are legally required to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Persons in close contact: All persons who have been in close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19 are legally required to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Persons diagnosed with COVID-19: All persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 are legally required to self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days from the beginning of symptoms or until symptoms resolve, whichever takes longer
  • Persons who become sick during self-isolation: All persons who have become sick during this time must self-isolate for an additional 10 days from the beginning of symptoms or until symptoms resolve, whichever takes longer.
  • Persons with symptoms: A person exhibiting the following symptoms must immediately self-isolate: cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose or sore throat.

Failure to comply with self-isolation requirements could result in a ticket of up to $1,000 per occurrence or Court administered fines for more serious violations of up to $100,000  for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence.

The following are some recommendations on how to self-isolate:

  • Must stay at home and cannot leave to go for a walk around the neighborhood;
  • Use delivery or pick-up services for errands (i.e.: groceries and meals);
  • Do not share items and regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces; and
  • Among other regulations and requirements permitted under the federal Quarantine Act.

Get more information on self-isolation and best practices as provided by the government of Alberta.

Restrictions on Gatherings and Business

As of April 1, 2020, the Alberta government has established the following restrictions on gatherings and businesses.

Restrictions on Gatherings

A “gathering” includes any event or assembling that brings people together in person in a single room or space, indoors or outdoors, at the same time. Gatherings with more than 15 people are prohibited. This includes conferences, workshops, workplace gatherings, weddings, funerals, family events, and social gatherings outdoors. Violation of the restrictions on gathering can result in a $1,000.00 penalty per individual, or, for more serious violations, fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for subsequent offences.

Even if there are fewer than 15 people in attendance, individuals must cancel an event if the event includes attendees who travelled outside of Canada; attendees who are critical to public health and essential services; attendees who are especially vulnerable to severe disease; attendees who are over the age of 60; and if the event includes participating in close-contact activities, such as food-sharing or singing.

Exemptions to the restrictions on gatherings include:

  • Public transit, so long as individuals maintain two metres of physical distance;
  • Operation of shelters or temporary housing facilities; and
  • Licensed residential addiction treatment services, so long as risk mitigation strategies are used like physical distancing.

Restrictions on Business

Albertans are prohibited from attending non-essential retail business, all public recreation facilities and private entertainment facilities, restaurants, cafes, and bars. However, Albertans can still access delivery and curb-side pick-up.

Albertans are further prohibited from accessing personal services, cosmetic enhancement studios, wellness studios, and non-emergency and non-critical health services.  Personal service facilities and cosmetic enhancement services include manicure, pedicure, body waxing, hairstyling, facial treatments, massage, reflexology, etc. Non-emergency and non-critical health services include dentistry, physiotherapy, chiropractic services, acupuncture, etc. All individuals within a business including owners, workers, volunteers and patrons, who are found to be in violation of public health orders are subject to a $1,000 penalty.

If a business is not restricted, its workplace can have more than 15 people so long as they all follow public health guidelines, including physical distancing measures.

Get more information on restrictions on gatherings and business as provided by the government of Alberta.

What is an essential service?

The government of Alberta has established a list of essential services according to the following categories: health, medical, and public health; public safety and security; food and shelter; energy and utilities; water; transportation; industrial; petroleum, natural gas, and coal; construction; agricultural and horticultural; retail; financial services; information and telecommunications; public administration and government; and other essential services.

Get more information and clarity on each of the categories and essential services in general as provided by the government of Alberta.

Support for Albertans:

The Alberta government has announced certain supports for Albertans who are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the supports defer payments normally made to the government in an effort to reduce the financial strain on Albertans. Eligible corporations are able to defer their corporate income taxes and WCB premium payments. Other supports target both corporations and individuals including freezing the Education property tax, and deferring utility payments, student loan repayment, and potentially payment on loans and lines of credit held at credit unions and ATB Financial.

To further support employees, the Employment Standards Code has been amended to allow employees to take 14 days of job protected leave if they, or their dependents, are required to self-isolate. However, at the discretion of the employer, employees can request to use their paid vacation or banked overtime instead of taking a job-protected leave. Further, employers can request that employees voluntarily use their vacation pay or banked overtime during this period.

Get more information on the support provided by the government of Alberta.

Government of Alberta Office Closures:

In an effort to protect the safety of workers and the public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alberta government has temporarily closed many provincially funded services. Some of these services are temporarily closed while others are being provided using different methods such as phone or email.

All Alberta courthouses are limiting access to the public, encouraging the use of eFiling, and are only hearing certain types of urgent matters. Traffic Court is temporarily closed and the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Centre is currently conducting all hearings by telephone and will continue to accept applications through its online eFiling service. Alberta’s Young Offender Centres, Adult Correctional Services, and Remand Centres remain open; however, they are closed to visitors.

Many services have closed their physical offices, but are still providing services via phone or online platforms. These services include Alberta Land Titles, Corporate Registry, Alberta Supports, Vital Statistics, Consumer Investigations and Programs, Government Surplus Sales, Official Documents, and the Air Photo Library. Some of the Alberta Registry Offices throughout the province remain open; however the government recommends contacting them to confirm their hours prior to visiting the office.

Get more information on these service changes and disruptions.