On October 26, 2020, in the update from Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Alberta employers were strongly urged to implement in their indoor work settings two voluntary public health measures relating to (1) the wearing of non-medical masks in the workplace and (2) the determination of cohorts with specific cautions about workers determining co-workers cohorts.

Alberta employers are strongly recommended to have workers wear masks at all indoor work sites except where (i) workers can be alone in their offices or in their cubicles or (ii) where appropriate barriers can be put in place. The Chief Medical Officer of Health has indicated that offices and cubicles are places where workers can be safely distanced from each other.

Currently workplaces make up approximately 15% of outbreaks and outbreak cases in Alberta. Due to the express reference to offices and cubicles being the exception, employers should strongly consider the donning of masks in all gathering spaces in their work settings, including wearing masks during meetings and in common areas even where workers can be 6 feet apart.

In regard to cohorts, the Chief Medical Officer of Health has attributed workplace outbreaks to coworkers that consider themselves to be cohorts simply because they work together. Workers should follow the COVID prevention measures, for example social and physical distancing, which still apply to co-workers and the public; and, employers should consider whether there is more they can do to enforce these measures. Workers should be reminded that COVID prevention rules apply to lunches and coffees, including when they are walking with their co-workers, and that their co-workers are not likely their cohorts especially just because they are back to the work site.

Albertans are reminded that they should have no more than three cohorts, including:

  • a core cohort including the household and a small group of people with whom they have exclusively agreed to gather;
  • a school cohort, if applicable;
  • and one additional sport cohort, social or other cohort.

Albertans are reminded to "stay home if they are sick, physically distance whenever possible, wear a mask when [they] can't and wash [their] hands frequently along with all other guidance put in place."

Finally from Monday's update, the mandatory limits on social gatherings in Alberta were reduced to a maximum of 15 people. This reduced maximum will be reviewed in a month's time but in the meantime has a significant impact on companies that have events booked and the Albertans who booked them.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health has asked Albertans not to fear the disease but to respect it, and we are reminding employers and workers that, together and separately, steps should be taken to at least meet, if not exceed, the guidelines and orders in order to create a safe workplace and help prevent the spread.

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