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Alberta reveals two-step plan to largely remove COVID-19 health restrictions by mid-August

Thursday, July 29, 2021 @ 1:38 PM | By Ian Burns

People who come into close contact with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 are no longer legally required to isolate as part of the province’s plan to largely end its public health restrictions by mid-August.

As of July 29, quarantine for close contacts will shift from mandatory to recommended. Isolation for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and for confirmed positive cases is still required. Contact tracers will no longer notify close contacts of exposure, but they will continue to investigate cases that are in high-risk settings such as acute and continuing care facilities.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at a press conference July 28 that the changes “will seem like a dramatic shift for many” but with vaccines readily available the need for extraordinary restrictions has diminished. According to Hinshaw, nearly 75.6 per cent of eligible Albertans have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 64.3 per cent are fully immunized.

“We have grown accustomed to protective measures, so some anxiety is only natural,” she said. “COVID-19 is still with us, but we are now in a place where we need to manage it through vaccinations and the proven public health measures used for other communicable viruses.”

The second step of Alberta’s plan, which begins Aug. 16, will be even more dramatic as provincial mandatory masking orders will be lifted and isolation following a positive COVID-19 test result will no longer be required, but rather strongly recommended. Universal masking will not be required in schools once students return, but will be recommended as a temporary outbreak intervention in response to respiratory outbreaks.

Testing for Albertans will be available through assessment centres until Aug. 31 and, after that, will be in primary care settings including physicians’ offices. For those with severe illness requiring urgent or emergency care, testing will be available in acute care and hospital settings.

Alberta’s plan will eventually bring COVID-19 quarantine, isolation and other measures in line with those used for influenza and other viruses. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the health system “will keep protecting Albertans who are exposed to COVID-19 while also ensuring that we are able to handle all other viruses and illnesses.”

“As the majority of us are vaccinated against COVID-19, we are adapting to make sure that the health system is ready to care for all Albertans, whatever their illness,” he said. “Please get vaccinated to help protect your health and the health of those around you.”

There were 1,334 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta as of July 27, with 84 people in hospital and 18 in intensive care. There have been 2,325 deaths in the province as a result of the virus.

More information about Alberta’s plan can be found here.

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