Kindergarten to Grade 12 students have been given an extended winter break as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the province, fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
The Province announced on the evening of Thursday, December 30 that K-12 students will return to in-person learning on January 10, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange told a news conference Thursday evening. Diploma exams (which were scheduled to begin on January 11) have also been cancelled.
Minister LaGrange noted that the extension and exam cancellations were due to the risks posed by the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19. This announcement comes after an estimated 4,000 new COVID-19 infections were identified in Alberta over 24 hours.
"Schools are expecting a high number of student absences, making it harder for teachers to manage in-person and at-home learning at the same time, and with students and staff still on holidays it's very hard for anyone at this time to fully assess what the situation for schools may look like."
— Education Minister Adriana LaGrange
Alberta is following other provinces that have made similar decisions to postpone the start of in-school classes in the new year, including Nova Scotia, Manitoba and British Columbia.
New public health measures
The new mandatory measures taking effect at 12:01am on December 24, 2021, are:
- For venues in the Restrictions Exemption Program, 50 per cent capacity limit at venues that seat more than 1,000 people. For venues with capacity of between 500 and 1,000 occupants, 500 is the limit.
- No food or drink consumption in seated audience settings or during intermissions in the above-mentioned venues.
- There is no impact on venues under 500.
- Maximum table capacity of 10 people in restaurants, pubs and bars. No mingling between tables.
- No interactive activities at restaurants, pubs and bars, for example: dancing, darts and billiards.
- Restaurants, pubs and bars must stop liquor service at 11:00pm, and close at 12:30am.
- Restrictions continue for both indoor and outdoor social gatherings, weddings, funerals, places of worship and businesses. Albertans should also refrain from workplace social gatherings.
Masking remains mandatory in all indoor public spaces, including in facilities participating in the Restrictions Exemption Program. Masks should fit well and be of high quality. Albertans with risk factors for severe outcomes should wear medical masks in settings with those outside of their household.
All Albertans aged 18 and older who received their second COVID-19 vaccine at least five months ago can now book a third dose.
Albertans are encouraged to take the first mRNA vaccine available to them for a third dose. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines offer a high level of protection against COVID-19, particularly against severe outcomes.
Pfizer will be offered to Albertans 18 to 29 years of age for booster purposes as a cautionary measure. While there is an increased risk of myocarditis in younger Albertans, especially in males, from Moderna, individuals are much more likely to experience myocarditis from COVID-19 infection than the vaccine.
All Albertans aged 18 and older can book appointments for third doses online with participating pharmacies or AHS by using the Alberta vaccine booking system or by calling AHS at 811.
At-home rapid test kits
In addition to ongoing orders for rapid tests from the Government of Canada, Alberta’s government will directly purchase up to 10 million rapid tests for anticipated delivery in January 2022, allowing Albertans to secure immediate supplies.
More than 2.5 million rapid tests, or 500,000 rapid test kits, have already been made available to Albertans in the broad rollout that began on December 17, 2022. Additional supplies have been received from the federal government and are being shipped to participating AHS and pharmacy locations. If you have not already picked up your kit, visit alberta.ca/CovidRapidTests to find the location nearest you with available stock, as many locations still have supplies available.