Alberta Health reported an additional 11 deaths related to COVID-19 and 383 new cases of the virus in the province on Saturday.
The positive cases came from 10,377 new tests over a 24-hour period, giving a provincial positivity rate of 3.8 per cent.
The total number of reported active cases in the province stood at 7,530 as of Saturday, a decrease of 275 from the previous day.
Hospitalizations and those in intensive care also decreased, with 582 people reported in hospital Saturday — 103 of whom were in ICU.
Seven of the deaths reported Saturday were in the Edmonton zone, including three linked to the outbreak at Youville Home: a man and woman in their 90s and a man in his 80s.
The passing of another man in his 80s was linked to the outbreak at Jasper Place Continuing Care Centre.
The death of a woman in her 80s was linked to the outbreak at Summerwood Village Retirement Residence.
The death of a woman in her 70s was linked to the outbreak at the Grey Nuns Hospital.
A woman in her 60s passed away on Jan. 28 and was not linked to an outbreak.
All seven of the cases in the Edmonton zone included comorbidities.
There were two deaths in the Calgary zone: a man in his 70s with unknown comorbidities and a second man in his 70s whose death was linked to the outbreak at Intercare Southwood and whose case included comorbidities.
There were two deaths in the North zone: a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Edson Continuing Care Centre and a woman in her 60s linked to the outbreak at Bonnyville Extendicare. Both cases included comorbidities.
On Friday, the province announced the easing of restrictions starting Feb. 8, including the reopening of restaurants for in-person dining and the reopening of gyms for one-on-one training.
Restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes will have to adhere to the following guidelines:
- A maximum of six people per table and individuals must be from the same household or two close contacts for people living alone
- Contact information must be collected from one person of the dining party
- Liquor service must end at 10 p.m. and in-person dining must close by 11 p.m.
- No entertainment like VLTS, pool tables or live music allowed
Children’s sports and performance activities will also be allowed to start up again if they are related to school activities and K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions are allowed to use off-site facilities to support curriculum-related educational activities.
Group or team sports are still not permitted, but one-on-one training for activities like fitness in dance studios or figure skating on ice will be allowed, provided an appointment is made.
The easing marks Step 1 of a four-step process that will track hospitalization numbers before easing restrictions.
If Alberta’s hospitalization numbers reach the next benchmark within a three-week period, officials will make the decision as to whether the next round of restrictions should be lifted.
Opposition Leader Rachel Notley criticized the Alberta government for the decision to ease restriction, referencing graphs Health Minister Tyler Shandro showed Monday. The graphs illustrated how rapidly COVID-19 variants might spread in the province without public health measures in place.
“(It’s) hard for me to believe that Jason Kenney has made the decision he announced today based on evidence and professional public health advice,” Notley said on Friday. “Rather, it appears to be — as always — a very political decision… (He is) succumbing to those who would break the law rather than enforcing the law.”
Notley referred to a small but growing movement of restaurant owners who have decided to defy public health orders and open their doors for customers looking to dine inside.
On Friday, Kenney said it was regrettable that some Alberta businesses are in a “very deliberate way, thumbing their nose at the law” and said doing so presents a public health risk and is unfair to businesses that do follow the law.