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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday that people in the province will be able to host two single individuals, not including minors, over the Christmas holiday between Dec. 23 and Dec. 28.
People in Alberta who live alone will be able to attend only one event at another household.
“It will make a world of difference for single Albertans who otherwise wouldn’t 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.”
“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.”
The premier said this move was made in an effort to balance preventing COVID-19 spread with people’s mental health during this time.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, indicated that if someone at the gathering is at higher risk of severe comes, like seniors or individuals with a chronic condition, they should be protected by maintaining a two-metre distance, having access to hand sanitizer and asking others not typically in contact with that person to wear a mask when distancing is not possible.
The premier went on to say that the “spike” in COVID-19 cases the province has been experiencing over the last two months is linked to gatherings around Thanksgiving in October.
“People got together never expecting that those family gatherings would be the source of transmission,” Kenney said. “If we were to gathering in typical large, extended family gatherings over the Christmas holiday, 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.”
“We would be back into exponential growth and it would’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 healthcare system.”
The premier also stressed that the public health measures in place, including gathering rules, are put in place to maintain access to health care in Alberta.
“This is not at theory, this is not a model, this is not a political preference,” Kenney said. “It is a simple, hard, numerical reality of the pressure on the healthcare system.”
Alberta reported 1,021 more COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and a test positivity of 7.2 per cent. There are currently 802 people with COVID-19 in Alberta hospitals, including 152 in ICUs. The province confirmed 11 more deaths related to COVID-19.