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Coronavirus: Alberta increasing outdoor gathering limit to 200

Alberta increasing outdoor gathering limit to 200
WATCH: Chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw announces Alberta has increased its outdoor gathering limit to 200 people for events like festivals, firework displays, rodeos, sporting events and outdoor performances.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Alberta has increased its outdoor gathering limit to 200 people.

In a release Tuesday, the province announced the change — which applies to specific events, including festivals, firework displays, rodeos, sporting events and outdoor performances.

“It is very specific to those more structured, audience-type community events where you don’t have a lot of people mixing and mingling in a smaller social environment,” Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

“Those more structured outdoor events don’t seem to be the source of much transmission, and we felt it was safe to expand the numbers in that very specific context, along with all the public guidance that remains in place.”

All public health measures, including physical distancing, remain in place and officials noted that any seated events must also arrange seating to accommodate appropriate distance between guests.

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Read more: Deena Hinshaw defends call to restrict mass gatherings through summer as Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll rises

The 100-person limit, however, still applies to other outdoor events, including wedding ceremonies and funeral services, Hinshaw said.

“A wedding ceremony, while the main purpose may be to watch that ceremony, it’s very difficult then to stop people from socializing who know each other in that context,” she said.

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“So we have kept private gatherings like funerals and like weddings to the limit of 100 even in an outdoor context, because of that added element of social interaction.”

Why are weddings in Alberta not in the expanded outdoor gathering limit?
Why are weddings in Alberta not in the expanded outdoor gathering limit?

A gathering limit was first introduced in mid-March after a provincial state of emergency was declared, and health officials noted that limiting the number of people in a confined area can help slow the spread of the virus.

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The gathering limit for outdoor areas has increased several times over the last three months. The province noted that’s because research suggests the virus has lower transmission rates when outside.

“Looking at our numbers, looking at where transmission has been happening, what we’ve seen is that the vast majority of transmission that has been occurring has been happening within social settings,” Hinshaw said. “Especially within social gatherings or sometimes work gatherings where people are close together, most often indoors.”

Dr. Hinshaw explains criteria for increasing outdoor gathering limit to 200
Dr. Hinshaw explains criteria for increasing outdoor gathering limit to 200

However, officials warned that any type of large gathering will increase the risk of spread.

With the increase, officials also noted that Alberta Health will continue to monitor case numbers and may need to adjust the limit as necessary.

Read more: Alberta Health reports 71 new COVID-19 cases as total case number surpasses 8,000

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Case numbers in Alberta

On Tuesday, Hinshaw confirmed 41 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total of active cases to 547.

Of those 41 people are in hospital and nine are in intensive care units. No additional deaths were reported Tuesday and 7,407 Albertans were listed as recovered.