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New Alberta Health Measures from Dec 8th, 2020: How they apply to Post-Secondary Sector

A message from Alberta Advanced Education: December 10, 2020

On Tuesday, December 8th, 2020, Alberta announced new measures to protect the health care system and reduce the rising spread of COVID-19. Alberta’s government, under the guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is not recommending further measures or restrictions specifically targeted to the post-secondary sector at this time.

However, a few of the enhanced measures will impact Alberta campuses until at least January 12, 2021. Please read the following for clarification on how the new measures apply to the post-secondary and adult learning sector:  

  • Post-secondary providers may continue providing classes and learning experiences as long as they follow the Guidance for Post Secondary Institutions and all other applicable guidance.  
    • This includes providing in-person exams.
  • Mandatory mask wearing now applies across the province in indoor public spaces and workplaces, except when working alone in an office or a safely distanced cubicle or an appropriate barrier is in place.
    • For post-secondary institutions, the classroom is also considered a workplace and therefore masking is required. The instructor can unmask while teaching, but must mask before and after. Students must wear masks at all times in indoor areas of post-secondary institutions. 
  • Working from home is now mandatory unless the employer requires a physical presence for operational effectiveness.
    • It is up to the employer to determine if staff need to be physically present to continue operations, such as research, effectively.
    • This also means that it is up to the employer to determine which operations should continue, and which should be suspended.  
  • In all areas of the province, indoor and outdoor social gatherings are prohibited.
  • Group studying is not allowed except in situations where two or more students must be physically present for the purpose of practice or a practical activity (e.g. lab practice, massage practice).
    • Students should opt for virtual study groups instead.
    • If two or more students must be physically present to practice a specific activity, the students should stay 2 metres apart from each other at all times and be masked.
    • Students who must come within 2 metres of each other for practice, rehearsal, or study must wear a mask, even if they are outdoors.
  • The performance activity exemption for school settings also applies to post-secondary institutions. However, although performance practices and rehearsals can occur, performances, concerts, and inter-school performance activities are not allowed at this time.
    • Streaming a live performance for an exam is permissible if there is no live audience involved.
  • Residences can remain open, so long as they follow the Guidance for Post-Secondary Institutions and the Guidance for Multi-Family Dwellings, Condominiums and Apartment Buildings.
    • Note that residents and visitors must wear a mask while in public spaces of the residence and keep 2 metres distance from anyone who is not part of their household.
    • For students in residence, their household is considered to be anyone who shares their room, suite, or apartment. A residence itself is not considered to be a household.
    • No gatherings are allowed in public indoor and outdoor spaces at the residence.
  • Tutoring is not considered a private social gathering and can continue in-person, although wherever possible we encourage people to move their tutoring sessions online to minimize the risk of disease transmission.
    • If tutoring is done in person, the number of students and tutors participating in a tutoring session should be limited to the fewest possible (one-on-one is best).
    • Tutoring is one of the few activities that can be done in private dwellings (e.g. a tutor can attend a private dwelling to provide services).
  • Any post-secondary student planning to return to their primary residence for the holidays can do so if it is in Alberta.
    • If their home is in another province or country, they are permitted to leave Alberta but should consult the rules for travel in their home jurisdiction before doing so. 
    • If they are coming from another country back to Alberta,  they must follow travel rules upon reentering the country.
  • Post-secondary institutions are not required to start the winter semester later than originally scheduled. This measure only applies to K-12 Sector.

Effective December 13th, the following closures and restrictions on campuses need to occur:

  • All libraries province-wide are ordered to close, including libraries in post-secondary institutions. This means that students cannot access post-secondary libraries for any purpose, although they can do front door pick-ups and drop-offs of books and materials.
  • Study spaces outside of libraries can remain open to solo study only, or group practices (see group studying information above for when these can occur).
  • Campuses with buildings that house multiple businesses, such as restaurants, cafes, pubs, retail space, etc. can stay open. However, they must limit capacity to 15% of fire code occupancy (instructions to calculate that number can be found here) in all public spaces and follow all applicable guidance. This includes:
    • Masking and physical distancing in indoor spaces and buildings is mandatory.
    • Retail spaces and retailers can still open but with a reduced customer capacity limit of 15% of fire code occupancy.
    • Restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars, meal halls and food courts must close to dine-in service, but can continue to provide take out, curbside pickup and delivery services.
    • Signs should be posted in public and study spaces to remind students not to gather with people outside of their own household.
    • People in these areas must maintain 2 metres distance from each other at all times.
    • In-person social gatherings of any size cannot occur in indoor or outdoor campus spaces.
  • Post-secondary providers offering programs in personal, wellness and health services may continue in-person classes as appropriate. However, all personal and wellness services, including hair salons and massage clinics, must close. If these services are part of the students’ practicum/program, they can continue to operate in a limited capacity as long as they remain closed to public access.
    • Students could practice on mannequins or each other.
    • Students must mask at all times.
  • All recreation centres in Alberta are ordered to close, including those located at post-secondary institutions.

The Ministry would encourage post-secondary providers to communicate to students and staff how the new restrictions apply to the post-secondary and adult learning sector. 

Although tough, we are confident these restrictions will help alleviate the pressure facing our health care system and keep Albertans safe. It is unknown what January will look like and we understand that classes will resume in those first few weeks of the New Year. The best source of information on the new measures is the following Alberta Government websites:

If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact Advanced Education at [email protected].

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