As COVID-19 cases rise, Alberta adopts new ‘targeted’ public health policies.

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Alberta’s premier launched targeted public-health initiatives aimed at slowing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic as the third phase of the pandemic set new records on Thursday.

On Thursday, the province announced 2,048 new cases, the most in a single day since the pandemic started in March 2020. Premier Jason Kenney has cautioned Albertans that if the trend persists, more drastic steps, such as curfews, will be required.

Kenney said at a news conference that starting Friday, the province will introduce targeted initiatives in hot spots throughout the province where there are more than 350 open cases per 100,000 residents and at least 250 overall active cases.

Starting Monday, all junior and senior high schools in the targeted communities will switch to at-home learning, though some have already made the switch to online learning. Starting Friday, all indoor exercise and indoor sports facilities will be closed. The required limitations would last at least two weeks, according to Kenney.

People who do not pay their fines and do not comply with health measures now risk being unable to renew their driver’s license or complete other transactions at registry facilities, he said. “This is about those who refuse to take the pandemic seriously and seek to put others in danger by disobeying public health orders.”

On Thursday, there were 21,385 active cases, a rise of 447 from the day before. Active cases in the province peaked at 20,976 on Dec. 13 during the second wave.

There were also 1,329 reports of extremely infectious variants of concern. Variants are now responsible for 62% of all active cases in the province.

COVID-19 was being treated in 632 Alberta hospitals, a small decrease from the day before. There were 151 patients in ICU beds, up to six from the previous week. “I wanted to take a moment to emphasize the seriousness of the situation we’re in now, and how bad things could get if Albertans don’t make a concerted effort in the coming weeks,” Kenney said.

“What I can say is that I don’t want to be standing here in two weeks having to impose a hard lockdown on Alberta, which we’ve avoided as a province in the last year because people don’t respond to this call.”