On May 26, 2021, the Alberta Government announced a three-step framework to lift health restrictions based on certain COVID-19 vaccination and hospitalization benchmarks.
As 50% of Albertans age 12 and over have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (a "vaccine") and COVID-19 hospitalizations are below 800 people and continuing to decline, Alberta will enter Stage 1 of the "Open for summer plan" (the "Open for summer plan") on June 1, 2021. Under Stage 1 the following changes will come into effect:
- The capacity limit for places of worship increases to 15% of fire code occupancy (effective May 28, 2021);
- Outdoor social gatherings, with distancing, increase to ten (10) people; however, indoor social gatherings remain prohibited;
- Outdoor physical, performance and recreation activities are permitted for all ages with up to ten (10) physically distanced people;
- Personal and wellness services may re-open by appointment only;
- Funeral services may now have up to 20 people in attendance, but receptions remain prohibited;
- Wedding ceremonies may have up to ten (10) people in attendance, but receptions remain prohibited;
- Restaurants may re-commence outdoor patio dining with a maximum of four people per table (individuals at a table together must be members of the same household or for a person living alone, dining parties are limited to two close contacts); and
- Retail operations can increase up to 15% of fire code occupancy, with distancing continuing to be maintained.
Stage 2 of the Open for summer plan will occur two weeks after 60% of Albertans age 12 and over have received at least one dose of a vaccine and hospitalizations are below 500 people and continuing to decline. The Alberta Government anticipates that Stage 2 will commence in mid-June. Under Stage 2 the following changes will come into effect:
- Outdoor social gatherings increase to 20 people, with distancing continuing to be maintained;
- Wedding ceremonies may have up to 20 people and outdoor wedding receptions will be permitted;
- Outdoor funeral receptions will be permitted;
- Restaurants will be permitted to provide both indoor and outdoor dine-in services with up to six (6) people per table. Dining parties will no longer be restricted to households only. Physical distancing and other restrictions must continue to be maintained;
- Retail operations can increase to one third of fire code occupancy, with distancing continuing to be maintained;
- Occupancy for places of worship increases to one third of fire code occupancy;
- Gyms and other indoor fitness will be permitted to open for solo and drop-in activities with three-metre distancing between participants;
- Fitness classes may resume with three metre distancing;
- Indoor settings, such as arenas, cinemas, theatres, museums, art galleries and libraries, may open with up to one third of fire code occupancy;
- Indoor and outdoor youth and adult sports may resume with no restrictions;
- Day camps and play centres may resume with restrictions;
- Personal and wellness services may resume walk-in services;
- Post-secondary institutions may commence in-person learning;
- The work-from-home order will be lifted but work-from-home will continue to be recommended;
- Outdoor fixed seating facilities, such as grandstands, may open with one-third seated capacity; and
- Public outdoor gatherings limits increase to 150 people, with restrictions.
Distancing and masking requirements remain in effect in Stage 1 and Stage 2.
Stage 3 of the Open for summer plan is set to occur two weeks after 70% of Albertans age 12 and over have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Stage 3 is not contingent on specific hospitalization thresholds. It is expected that Stage 3 will become effective in late June or early July. Under Stage 3, all restrictions will be lifted, including the ban on indoor social gatherings; however, isolation requirements for confirmed cases of COVID-19 and certain protective measures in specific spaces (such as continuing care facilities) will remain in effect.
Gowling WLG focus
The implementation of Stage 1 of the Open for summer plan will allow many businesses to expand services to the public and increase their activities. Given the increased vaccination rates and decreasing hospitalization numbers in Alberta, it is expected that Stage 2 and Stage 3 of the Open for summer plan will likely occur in accordance with the proposed timeline by the Alberta Government.
As Alberta businesses begin to transition into what is hoped to be a permanent re-opening, there will be a continued focus on health and safety measures in the workplace. As businesses finalize their plans, consideration needs to continue to be given to COVID-19 related leaves provided by the Alberta Employment Standards Code as well as the applicable isolation periods mandated by the Alberta Government.
In addition, considerations should also be given to what steps can be taken to implement measures that protect individuals in the workplace while balancing employment and privacy law. For example, on May 19, 2021, the federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners in Canada issued a joint statement on privacy considerations regarding vaccine passports. Such privacy analysis is a good starting point for the question of whether a workplace can implement a vaccine policy or add certain vaccine-related questions to a wellness checklist. Overarching guidelines with respect to transparency, accountability, safeguards for the protection of sensitive and confidential information, independent oversight, time and scope limitations and limiting collection, use, disclosure and retention of such information must be considered and appropriately weighed against the significant health and safety concerns to ensure that a reasonable and measured approach is taken by organizations as they balance the various interests at play.
We will continue to provide regular updates with respect to the Open for summer plan as additional information becomes available.
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