On September 15, 2021, the Alberta Government declared a state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases surge throughout the province. The Province announced it will implement new public health measures in efforts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, and to expand capacity within its health-care system and increase vaccination rates.
The Alberta Government has introduced a “restrictions exemption program,” which allows Albertans with valid proof of vaccinations, or individuals who can present a negative COVID-19 test, to access participating businesses without restrictions, other than masking. Many of the new COVID-19 restrictions only apply to businesses that do not have a vaccine verification system in place. Masking is still mandatory in all indoor public spaces.
The following health measures are effective as of September 16:
- Unless an employer determines that a physical presence is required for operational effectiveness, employees are required to comply with a new mandatory work from home order.
Private social gatherings:
- Vaccine-eligible individuals who are fully vaccinated may gather indoors, limited to a single household plus one other household to a maximum of 10 people. There are no restrictions on children under the age of 12.
- Vaccine-eligible individuals who are unvaccinated are not permitted to attend any indoor private social gatherings.
- Outdoor private social gatherings are permitted to a maximum of 200 people with physical distancing required.
Places of worship:
- Places of worship must limit attendance to one-third of the venue’s normal capacity.
- Face masks are mandatory and physical distancing must be maintained between households or two close contacts for those who live alone.
Outdoor events and facilities with no indoor portion (excluding washrooms):
- There are no attendance restrictions for outdoor events and facilities but attendees must maintain physical distancing.
- All staff and teachers in all grades, and students in grades 4 and up are required to wear a mask. Schools can be exempt from mandatory masking if they can implement an alternate COVID-19 safety plan.
- Elementary schools must implement class cohorting.
- For physical activities in schools:
- Youth aged 18 and under are not required to mask or maintain two-metre distance when engaged in physical activity.
- There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.
- Indoor sports/performance/recreation/special interests are permitted with requirements for two-metre physical distancing, where possible.
Children’s sport/performance/recreation (extracurricular sports, performance, recreation and special interest):
- Indoor activities are permitted with physical distancing and masking maintained where possible. Participants must also undergo symptom screening.
- Youth aged 18 are required to screen for symptoms but are not required to wear a mask or maintain physical distancing during physical activities, such as team sports.
- Spectator attendance is limited to one-third of the venue’s capacity. Attendees must wear a mask at all times and maintain physical distancing between different households or an individual who lives alone and their two close contacts.
- There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.
- Participants at children’s day camps must wear a mask indoors and maintain physical distancing.
- Children’s overnight camps must follow cohort models.
As part of the Alberta Government’s “restrictions exemption program” businesses or event organizers who choose to implement a vaccine passport program for screening patrons will be exempt from the restrictions. If a business or service chooses not to require proof of vaccination, they must follow the new health measures.
The following measures take effect on September 20, 2021 for businesses that do not implement the restrictions exemption program.
- Outdoor dining only with a maximum of six individuals per table (one household or two close contacts for those living alone).
- Liquor sales and consumption restrictions (10 p.m. sales and 11 p.m. consumption) apply.
Weddings and funerals:
- All indoor ceremonies and services are limited to 50 attendees or 50 per cent of the venue’s capacity, whichever is less.
- Indoor receptions are not permitted.
- All outdoor ceremonies and services for weddings and funerals are limited to 200 attendees. Outdoor receptions are required to follow liquor sales and consumption restrictions (10 p.m. sales and 11 p.m. consumption).
Retail, entertainment and recreation facilities (includes any indoor venues, libraries, conferences, rental spaces, concerts, nightclubs, casinos and similar):
- Attendance is limited to one-third of the venue’s capacity and attendees are only permitted to attend with their household or two close contacts for those living alone. Attendees must wear a mask and maintain physical distancing between households.
Adult (over 18 years old) sport, fitness, performance, and recreation:
- Indoor group classes or activities are not permitted.
- One-on-one training or individual workouts are permitted with three-metre physical distancing required.
- No contact between players; indoor competitions are temporarily on hold except where vaccine exemptions have been granted.
- Specific exemptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis.
There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.
Restrictions Exemption Program
Starting on September 20, in order to access participating social, recreational and discretionary events and businesses throughout the province, vaccine-eligible individuals must provide valid proof of immunization or a negative COVID-19 test, privately paid for, obtained within the previous 72 hours.
Businesses and services that implement the Restrictions Exemption Program are permitted to operate as usual. However, they are only allowed to serve those who have proof of immunization or who have a valid privately paid negative test. This means these businesses can (without restriction) serve any individual eligible for vaccination who:
- Has proof of double vaccination (for a transitional period between September 20 and October 25, proof of a single dose is acceptable as long as the dose was given two weeks or more before the time of service).
- Has documentation of a medical exemption.
- Has proof of a negative PCR or Rapid COVID-19 test obtained within the previous 72 hours (Note that the test may not be from Alberta Health Services or Alberta Precision Laboratories).
- Those under age 12 are not required provide proof of immunization or a negative test to enter a participating business.
- This program does not apply to businesses or entities that need to be accessed for daily living.
As government COVID-19 restrictions continue to change, employers likely have questions about how the public health restrictions affect their business. These concerns are especially common for employers that operate across multiple Canadian provinces, or internationally, given the significant variance in government restrictions across jurisdictions.
Our Labour and Employment team is available to assist employers as they consider their workplace policies and approach to managing their workforce in light of the continually evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.