The Premier announced Alberta’s relaunch strategy, including:
- Alberta Health Services will be permitted to resume non-urgent surgeries as soon as May 4, 2020;
- dental and other health providers, including physiotherapists, speech language pathologists, respiratory therapists, audiologists, social workers, and occupational therapists will be allowed to resume services as of May 4, 2020; and
- golf courses may open with restrictions as of May 4, 2020.
Further businesses and services will be permitted to re-open over 3 stages. During the first stage, which is expected to commence on May 14, 2020, the following businesses and services will be permitted to reopen: retail services, hair styling and barbering, daycares, restaurants, cafes, lounges, bars, museums, art galleries, additional outdoor recreation businesses and additional allied health services.
The second stage will include the reopening of the following businesses and services: personal services, massage and reflexology practices, summer camps, post-secondary institutions that deliver online, in-person, or a blend of programming with restrictions, movie theatres and additional elective surgeries. The government is considering reopening schools during the second stage.
The third stage of the reopening is expected to include the following businesses and services: swimming pools, gyms, arenas, nightclubs, industry conferences, arts and cultural festivals and major sporting events.
Progress through each stage will depend on the trajectory and management of COVID-19 within the province. Restrictions apply both generally and to specific types of businesses and services during each stage. Current restrictions on group gatherings to a maximum of 15 people will continue until otherwise announced. Physical distancing requirements of two metres will remain in place through all stages of the relaunch. Industry-specific guidelines for the relaunch are currently being prepared.
On May 4, 2020, as part of Alberta’s relaunch strategy, the Chief Medical Officer of Health signed CMOH Order 15-2020 which permits golf courses to reopen to the public effective May 1, 2020.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health also issued CMOH Order 16-2020 to allow for the resumption of non-essential health services in Alberta effective May 4, 2020, including non-essential health services including non-emergency dental care, physiotherapists, speech language pathologists, respiratory therapists, audiologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and dieticians, among others, may provide services, subject to the following:
- each regulatory college established under the Health Professions Act must publish COVID-19 guidelines that are substantially equivalent to the Workplace Guidance For Community Health Care Settings and provide them to the Chief Medical Officer of Health;
- until the college guidelines are established, service providers must comply with the Workplace Guidance For Community Health Care Settings, including its requirements on:
- communication related to COVID-19 for staff and volunteers;
- COVID-19 specific workplace considerations;
- staff and patient screening;
- symptomatic staff and volunteers;
- staff, volunteers or clients/patients diagnosed with COVID-19; and
- preventative measures; and
- the Chief Medical Officer of Health may amend the COVID-19 guidelines issued by a college if it is determined that they are insufficient to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
The government also published Workplace Guidance For Business Owners which provides information to employers regarding:
- requirements relating to sick staff and volunteers;
- required and recommended preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19; and
- information and recommendations for hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting in the workplace.
Additional announcements are expected early next week regarding further exemptions from COVID-19 restrictions.
On May 6, 2020, the Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health issued CMOH Order 17-2020, which permits shooting ranges to reopen effective May 6, 2020. Shooting ranges may only operate if:
- reservations, retail and rental services are made available by online or telephone transactions, to the extent possible;
- food and drink services comply with existing health orders;
- measures are implemented to enable attendees to comply with social distancing requirements;
- every item rented or loaned is cleaned and disinfected before future use.
On May 11, 2020, the Alberta government released a new resource for Alberta businesses and employers as part of its relaunch strategy. Employers can now consult Alberta Biz Connect for:
- general workplace guidance for business re-opening and continuing operations;
- specific sector guidance;
- tips for reopening plans, including for retail, restaurants, and daycare and out of school care businesses; and
- occupational health and safety resources.
On May 13, 2020, the government announced that Stage 1 of its relaunch strategy will commence on May 14, 2020. Except for those businesses located in Calgary and Brooks, the following businesses will be permitted to reopen to the public with restrictions:
- retail stores;
- hair styling and barber shops;
- museums and art galleries;
- daycares and out-of-school care, with limits on occupancy;
- day camps, including summer school, with limits on occupancy;
- restaurants and cafes, up to 50 per cent capacity;
- post-secondary institutions; and
- places of worship and funeral services.
Separate reopening measures are being implemented for businesses in Calgary and Brooks. The Stage 1 schedule in those cities was announced as follows:
- May 14, 2020: retail businesses, all vendors at farmers’ markets, museums and art galleries, daycares and out-of-school care (with limits on occupancy);
- May 25, 2020: hairstyling and barbershops and restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars (at 50 per cent capacity); and
- June 1, 2020: day camps and summer school (with limits on occupancy), and additional flexibility for places of worship and funeral services.
On May 14, 2020, the Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health announced that businesses reopening under the provincial Relaunch Strategy must complete a plan detailing how the business intends to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 among staff and customers. The plan must be in the form developed by the government and must be posted at the business location within 7 days of the business reopening.
- implement practices to minimize the risk of transmission of infection;
- provide procedures for rapid response if a person develops symptoms of illness while at the business;
- ensure that persons working at or attending the business maintain high levels of sanitation and personal hygiene;
- comply, to the extent possible, with any applicable Alberta Health guidance; and
- complete a plan that sets out how the operator will meet these requirements and post the plan on a public website or other place where it can be readily seen within 7 days of opening.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health has also released CMOH Order 20-2020 which permits gatherings of up to 50 persons.
On the weekend of May 16-17, 2020, the Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health released CMOH Order 22-2020 , which reverses the previously-announced requirement that businesses wishing to operate complete a COVID-19 operational plan. A template plan remains available, though its completion is now voluntary.
On May 21, 2020, the Alberta Minister of Children’s Services issued Ministerial Order No. 2020-06 which allows day care, out-of-school care and innovative child care programs to reopen retroactive to May 14, 2020. Among other features, the Order requires license holders to comply with the Alberta Health Guidance for Licensed Child Care Centre (Daycares and Out-of-School).
On May 22, 2020, the Alberta government has confirmed that Calgary and Brooks will be permitted to proceed with Stage 1 of the province’s re-launch plan in accordance with CMOH-Order 19-2020. Effective May 25, 2020, the following businesses will be permitted to reopen:
- hair salons and barbershops; and
- cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars (at 50% capacity).
Starting May 25, 2020, non-urgent surgeries requiring a hospital stay will also be permitted to resume.
On May 28, 2020, the Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health issued CMOH Order 24-2020, allowing preschool programs to resume operations, provided they meet applicable legal requirements, including:
- implementing practices to minimize the risk of transmission of infection;
- providing procedures for rapid response if a person develops symptoms of illness while working or while in attendance;
- ensuring that persons working or in attendance maintain high levels of sanitation and personal hygiene; and
- complying, to the extent possible, with any applicable Alberta Health guidance.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health also issued a notice on the operation of day camps operated in recreational or entertainment businesses. Recreational or entertainment businesses or entities are permitted to offer day camps to the public, provided that the measures set out in CMOH Orders 18-2020 and 19-2020 are followed, which include:
- implementing practices to minimize the risk of transmission of infection;
- providing procedures for rapid response if a person develops symptoms of illness while working or attending;
- ensuring that persons working at or attending maintain high levels of sanitation and personal hygiene;
- complying, to the extent possible, with any applicable Alberta Health guidance; and
- complying, to the extent possible, with the Guidance for Day Camps and Workplace Guidance for Business Owners.
May 29, 2020, the Government of Alberta partnered with the Canada Revenue Agency to create a Common Business Number which will streamline application processes and assist in COVID-19 recovery.
In addition, the Government of Alberta partnered with certain fast food chains to distribute non-medical masks at no cost through their drive-thru locations.
As announced on May 30, 2020, on June 1, 2020, the cities of Calgary and Brooks will complete the gradual implementation of Stage 1 of the provincial relaunch strategy, and, places of worship will be permitted to offer in person services and faith based activities for up to a maximum of 50 people, or 1/3 of building capacity, whichever is less. Further government guidance regarding recommended measures can be found here.
Day camps and pre-schools can operate under the guidance documents issued by the government.
The government also released guidance for organized outdoor sport, physical activity and recreation which can be found here.
In addition, limitation periods and time periods that were suspended on March 30, 2020 by a ministerial order will resume on June 1, 2020.
As announced on June 5, 2020, the Alberta government said that it will be offering up to $200 million in new financial supports for small and medium sized employers affected by COVID-19. Businesses with less than 500 employees will be eligible for a one-time payment of up to 15 percent their monthly sales revenue, up to a maximum of $5,000, in order to offset a portion of their re-launch costs. The funds can be used for implementing measures to minimize the risk of virus transmission, (such as physical barriers, personal protective equipment and disinfecting supplies), rent, employee wages or replacement of inventory. Specific details of the program and the application process are expected to become available in the coming weeks. The announcement on the economic relaunch support can be found here.
On June 9, 2020, the Alberta government announced that they are moving to stage 2 of their relaunch strategy on June 12, a week sooner than expected.
The following can reopen with restrictions:
- K-12 schools, for requested diploma exams and summer school, following guidance
- More surgeries
- Wellness services such as massage, acupuncture and reflexology
- Personal services (esthetics, cosmetic skin and body treatments, manicures, pedicures, waxing, facial treatment, artificial tanning)
- Indoor recreation, fitness, and sports, including gyms and arenas
- Movie theatres and theatres
- Community halls
- Team sports
- Pools for leisure swimming
- VLTs in restaurants and bars
- Casinos and bingo halls (but not table games)
- Instrumental concerts
The 50 percent capacity limit for provincial campgrounds is also being lifted. Over the coming days, the online reservation system will be updated and sites will come online in phases. By July 1, all camping sites will be open for reservations. First-come, first-served sites may open sooner. Information on additional sites will be added to alberta.parks.ca when they become available.
Events and gatherings can be larger in stage two as follow:
Maximum 50 people: Indoor social gatherings – including wedding and funeral receptions, and birthday parties
Maximum 100 people: Outdoor events and indoor seated/audience events – including wedding and funeral ceremonies
No cap on the number of people (with public health measures and physical distancing in place):
- Worship gatherings
- Restaurants, cafés, lounges and bars
- Bingo halls
There is more flexibility for ‘cohort’ groups – small groups of people whose members do not always keep two metres apart:
- A household can increase its close interactions with other households to a maximum of 15 people
- Performers can have a cohort of up to 50 people (cast members or performers)
- Sports teams can play in region-only cohorts of up to 50 players (mini leagues)
- People could be part of a sports/performing and household cohort
Everyone is encouraged to follow public health guidelines and notify others in the cohort(s) if they have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19. If they do test positive or have symptoms, mandatory isolation is required.
Still not approved in stage two
- Social gatherings that exceed above listed maximums
- Regular in-school classes for kindergarten to Grade 12. Classes will resume September 2020
- Vocal concerts (as singing carries a higher risk of transmission)
- Major festivals and concerts, large conferences, trade shows and events (as these are non-seated social events and/or vocal concerts)
- Amusement parks
- Hookah lounges (permitted for food and drink only)
- Major sporting events and tournaments
- Non-essential travel outside the province is not recommended. This recommendation will not be lifted until stage three of the relaunch strategy.
On June 10, 2020, the Alberta government announced its re-entry plan for the 2020-21 school year. These three potential scenarios are being planned for September 2020, working with local school boards:
- in-school classes resume with near normal operations with certain restrictions and requirements;
- in-school classes partially resume with further health measures; and
- at home learning continues (in-school classes are cancelled).
Further details of the scenarios can be found here, along with public health guidance for schools. The government hopes to determine which scenario will be implemented by August 1, 2020.
On June 18, 2020, the government introduced Bill 24, the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Actwhich proposes measures to support Albertans as the province continues to reopen and the public health emergency has ended on June 15, 2020. The proposed amendments will allow some pandemic response efforts to continue and introduce new measures to support the safe and successful reopening of Alberta’s economy.
Highlights of Bill 24 include
1. Extending existing measures, such as:
- Extending to August 2021 the unpaid job-protected leave specific to COVID-19, which allows employees to take leave to care for a child due to school or daycare closures or to care for an ill or self-isolating family member.
- Providing updated guidance for operating child care programs, including increasing the maximum cohort group size from 10 to 30 staff and children, helping operators reopen safely and ensuring parents have access to child care as they return to work.
- Allowing for remote signing and witnessing of estate and care documents through two-way video conferencing, ensuring Albertans continue to have access to justice during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Extending the maximum time for temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 from 120 days to 180 days (this change would come into force upon first reading).
- Extending arrangements that support the Chief Medical Officer of Health Order No. 10 that allows a health-care facility to limit employees to working at one site.
- Extending the use of emergency powers for an additional 60 days now that the state of public health emergency has ended, and extending existing ministerial orders to continue to protect the health of Albertans during relaunch.
- Creating a new regulation-making authority to support and empower orders of the chief medical officer of health, as required. All current public health orders that have been put in place by the chief medical officer of health remain in force.
2. New measures include:
- Providing the province and municipalities with flexibility and authority to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and future provincial emergencies, including to suspend or modify permit requirements for temporary facilities such as drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites.
- Extending the deadline for the public release of Alberta’s annual report and financial statements to Aug. 31.
- Ensuring Albertans retain their rights to appeal claims related to private career colleges in the courts or for the Government of Alberta to make claims related to
3. Student financial assistance: Extending the grace period of expired board member appointments to the Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board from three to five months after the term expires to allow time for a safe recruitment process.
On June 26, 2020, the Alberta government gave royal assent to the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act which allows the government to continue to support Albertans as the province continues to reopen and since the public health emergency ended on June 15, 2020. See above for more details.
On June 28, 2020, the Alberta government announced that starting June 29, eligible small- and medium-sized businesses, co-ops and non-profits can apply for funding so they can open their doors and get Albertans back to work. Eligible job creators can apply for up to $5,000 through this program. This relief for businesses and non-profits can be used to offset the costs they are facing as they reopen their doors. This includes the costs of implementing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as physical barriers, PPE and cleaning supplies, as well as rent, employee wages, replacing inventory and more.
Application will open at 10 a.m. on June 29, and remain open until August 31, or for four weeks following the start of stage three of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy – whichever is later.
To be eligible, small- and medium-sized businesses, cooperatives and non-profits must have 500 or fewer employees. The program has a budget of $200 million.
To manage the expected volume of applications, during the first week of application intake (June 29 to July 3), a specific application day has been designated for specific regions of the province. During this time, applicants are encouraged to apply on the application day that is specified for their region. Beginning July 4, businesses, cooperatives and non-profits from all regions may apply at any time until application intake closes.
Full program details, including additional eligibility criteria, application days by region, and how to apply, are outlined in the program guidelines. A program web page and online application portal will launch on alberta.ca when application intake opens at 10 a.m. on June 29.
On June 29, 2020, the Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health released CMOH Order 26-2020 , which requires that every person attending an indoor or outdoor location maintain a minimum 2-metre distance from every other person, save for:
- individuals who are members of the same household or cohort group; and
- individuals who comply with Alberta Health’s physical distancing guidance.
Eligible small and medium sized businesses, co-ops and non-profits can now apply for up to $5000 in funding from The Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant. The application intake will remain open until August 31, 2020, or for four weeks following the start of stage three of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy, whichever is later. Further information regarding the grant can be found here.
On June 30, 2020, the Alberta government announced that the outdoor gathering limit for events such as festivals, firework displays, rodeos, sporting events, and performances has been increased to a maximum of 200 people. Restrictions, including compliance with public health requirements, continue to apply.
On July 2, 2020, the Alberta Chief Medical Office issued a notice on exemptions to CMOH Order 05-2020 for certain employees, contractors and subcontractors involved in the petroleum, natural gas and coal industries, which included the following:
- workers who have been designated as essential to the operations of their company and must travel to or from Canada to provide essential services that support critical infrastructure that is necessary to the operations of their company’s interests in Alberta or outside of Canada are exempt from the quarantine provisions in CMOH Order 05-2020;
- Exempted Persons may be permitted to leave their quarantine premises where the persons’ services are needed to maintain critical infrastructure in Alberta by the company to whom they provide services;
- if providing services within Alberta during the period when the persons should have been in quarantine, the Exempted Persons must follow appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines including wearing a mask at all times when outside of their accommodation; and
- Exempted Persons are still subject to any other applicable directions or other provisions that apply to “essential service workers”
On July 7, 2020, the Alberta government introduced Bill 32, the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act. If passed, the Act would make significant changes to both the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code, including the following changes drafted to take effect August 15, 2020:
- change the way holiday pay is calculated and averaging agreements are formed;
- eliminating requirements around group termination notice;
- increasing the permissible length of temporary layoffs (layoffs related to COVID-19 will still be permitted up to 180 consecutive days under the Employment Standards Code); and
- more flexible rules to apply for variances and exemptions.
Further details on the proposed changes can be found here.