Pandemic Timeline: Alberta
Updated: Jan 5, 2022
As we review the past twenty-two months of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, it is important to look back and ask one key question: why do we keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results?
March 4, 2020: Hinshaw states that there are no confirmed cases and that risk to Albertans at that time was low. She advised Albertans to prepare in case COVID-19 arrived here and that Albertans should have three days worth of essential items like food, water and medicine on hand in the event of any emergency. (1)
March 5, 2020: First presumptive COVID-19 case reported in Alberta. (2)
March 8, 2020: Hinshaw states that COVID-19 "can spread person-to-person by larger droplets, like from a cough or sneeze…or by touching contaminated objects or surfaces, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth." (3)
March 11, 2020: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 as a global pandemic. (4)
March 12, 2020: Hinshaw states that COVID-19 is "not like other threats we have seen in the past few decades. It is more severe than seasonal influenza, and more contagious than viruses like SARS." (5)
March 15, 2020: All daycares are closed, all K-12 schools suspend classes and close to students and all post-secondary institutions to suspend in-person classes. (6)
March 16, 2020: Emergency Management Cabinet Committee authorized Premier Kenney to use "all powers necessary" to "keep Albertans safe". (7)
March 17, 2020: Kenney declares a public health state of emergency under the Public Health Act. The province imposes "aggressive public health measures" which included "limiting mass gatherings", and prohibiting and limiting attendance at a number of public and private facilities. (8) (9)
March 17, 2020: Hinshaw described how these steps were undertaken to "flatten the curve". "The more we can slow the spread of the virus down, the less likely it is that there will be a surge of cases that overwhelm our health system's capacity to care for those who need hospitalization or intensive care." (10)
March 18, 2020: Hinshaw stated "We have had to weigh lives against livelihoods. And in order to save lives, I have had to make recommendations that will take away livelihoods from many Albertans over the next several weeks to months. There are no easy solutions to the situation we are in, not only in Alberta but around the world." (11)
Hinshaw said that "first wave of the outbreak could reach its peak in Alberta around mid-April" and that "officials expect another wave of the illness in the fall." (11)
March 25, 2020: Premier Kenney and Health Minister Shandro announced that Peace Officers would be enforcing rules related to "self-isolation and physical distancing." (12)
March 29, 2020: Tyler Williamson (University of Calgary assistant professor of biostatistics in the community health services department) says that "Alberta is currently on a "middle-of-the-road" trajectory, likely to avoid a worst-case scenario of Italy but also unlikely to achieve the dramatic success achieved in Singapore, where stringent social distancing measures were imposed early." (13)
April 6, 2020: Hinshaw recommended the wearing of non-medical face masks in public by people who expect to go into situations where it is difficult to maintain the required physical distance from others, citing that it could help to slow spread by those who are asymptomatic. (14)
April 7, 2020: Alberta Health Services published models projecting that in the "most probable" scenario, the peak number of cases will occur in mid-May, with around 800,000 total cases and 400 to 3,100 total deaths, and that if measures had not been taken, Alberta would have seen as many as 1.6 million cases and around 32,000 deaths. (15)
April 30, 2020: The number of active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta reached 3,105, which was the peak of the first wave. (16)
June 15, 2020: The provincial state of emergency ended. (17)
June 16, 2020: On June 16, the province reported 35 new cases and 449 active cases. A petition by Albertan doctors calling on government officials to make wearing a mask mandatory in indoor public spaces was circulating. (18)
July 21, 2020: Premier Kenney said that "we should all be very concerned about the recent rise in active COVID-19 cases". He then announced plans for a "near-normal" return to classes in September with no class-size limits or mandatory masks. (19)
September 15, 2020: Schools reopened in September. By mid-September, there had been 42 people who were infectious who were present in 35 schools. (20)
October 19, 2020: During the second wave, the number of active cases reached 3,138, which was the highest reported in Alberta. (21)
November 6, 2020: Premier Kenney called on Albertans to follow guidelines and to "take personal responsibility", arguing that "we've seen other jurisdictions implement sweeping lockdowns, indiscriminately violating people's rights and destroying livelihoods. Nobody wants that to happen in Alberta." (22)
November 9, 2020: A group of 70 physicians issued a joint letter to the Kenney government, calling for a two-week "circuit breaker" lockdown to help control and trace the present surge of cases, criticizing the government's lack of leadership and direction. (23)
November 24, 2020: Premier Kenney re-declared a provincial public health emergency, instating new restrictions on gatherings and retail capacity. (24)
December 8, 2020: The Government of Alberta announced new public health measures which restricted dine-in food service, closed personal services such as hairdressers and tattoo parlors, closed gyms and fitness studios, prohibited social gatherings, reduced retail and places of worship capacity from 25% to 15%, provided for a province-wide mask mandate, and strongly suggested work-from-home measures. The measures were to be in place for a minimum of four weeks. (25)
December 14, 2020: Total active case numbers peaked in Alberta at 20,500. Active cases then began to decline for the remainder of December, about 3 weeks after the renewal of limited gathering and retail restrictions, and just 1 week after the implementation of much tighter restrictions and closures. (26)
December 16, 2020: Alberta began distribution of the Pfizer-BioBTech COVID-19 vaccine to frontline health care workers in Calgary and Edmonton. (27)
December 28, 2020: Hinshaw announced that Lineage B.1.1.7, a variant of concern (VoC) originating from the United Kingdom that is more infectious, had been detected in a positive test sample from a traveller that had recently returned from the United Kingdom. (28)
January 7, 2021: The Government of Alberta announced in-person learning for K-12 students would begin following the winter break on January 11. The government also extended public health measures implemented on December 8, 2020, for an additional two weeks. (29)
January 25, 2021: To control the spread of variants of concern, Shandro also announced that quarantine rules would be reintroduced for travellers crossing the land border, under which they must self-isolate until they test negative on a second test. (30)
February 8, 2021: The province moved to Step 1 of "The Path Forward", allowing restaurants to reopen at a reduced capacity, one-on-one fitness instruction, and children's sport and performance activities to be allowed under certain circumstances. (31)
March 8, 2021: Total active cases for the second wave reached their lowest level since the wave peaked, at 4,579 active cases, which was still 40% higher than the peak of the first wave in April 2020. (32)
March 8, 2021: The province moved in full to Step 2 of "The Path Forward", allowing collegiate sport and adult performance activities under certain circumstances, an increase in capacity for retail, low-intensity group fitness appointments, and allowing libraries and event halls to reopen with restrictions. (33)
March 9, 2021: Active case numbers started to rise again. Over the next days and weeks, active cases were again rising, at an increasing rate throughout the month. (34)
March 15, 2021: The government also changed the vaccination schedule, delaying the second dose to a period as long as 4 months, in order to distribute more first doses without having to hold as many in reserve in anticipation of a second dose in a few weeks. (35)
April 3, 2021: The province reported a "significant" outbreak involving Lineage P.1, a VoC originating from Brazil. Beyond the index case being a recent traveller, no further details were revealed. (36)
April 6, 2021: Additional information was released, with Hinshaw stating that the index case was an employee of a large company operating in Western Canada who had returned from out-of-province travel, that it was "confined to three work sites in Central and North zone, where employees have travelled between sites," and that 26 cases had been tied to this outbreak so far, with three Lineage P.1 cases having been detected among them so far. (37)
April 6, 2021: Due to the increasing caseload and hospitalizations, Premier Kenney announced an immediate rollback to "Step 1" restrictions effective at midnight, and that indoor dining at bars and restaurants would also be restricted beginning April 9. An exception was provided for outdoor dining. (38)
April 7, 2021: AHS officials physically restricted access to GraceLife Church in Parkland County for repeated violations of public health orders. (39)
April 29, 2021: Premier Kenney announced a series of "targeted health measures" through at least May 13 for areas with high infection rates per-capita (including most of Alberta's metropolitan areas), including transitioning schools to online classes, ordering the closure of indoor gyms, and ordering the suspension of indoor sports activity. Kenney also warned that there would be an option to impose curfews at the request of local officials or if active cases exceed 1,000 per-100,000, and urged all residents of Alberta to stay home and not travel outside of their communities. (40)
May 2, 2021: CTV News reported per an aggregate of Canadian numbers with those of the United States, that Alberta had the second-highest seven-day average of new cases per-1,000,000 among all Canadian provinces, territories, and U.S. states, behind only Michigan. (41)
May 2, 2021: University of Calgary infectious disease researcher Craig Jenne argued that there was "no real evidence that any of the restrictions so far are bringing these numbers under control". (41)
May 2, 2021: Premier Kenney condemned an anti-lockdown "rodeo rally" that was held near Bowden, Alberta on May 1, describing it as a "flagrant violation" of public health orders, and arguing that it contradicted the spirit of rodeos as a celebration of Alberta heritage, "a key part of which is our community spirit and looking out for others, especially the vulnerable." (42)
May 3, 2021: Premier Kenney stated that Alberta was planning to announce "stronger" public health orders on May 4, arguing that the province needed to take the pandemic seriously, "put the health care system first", and that "we are facing a very serious wave and we will take whatever measures are necessary to address it. (43)
May 3, 2021: Kenney announced new province-wide restrictions, including a stricter limit on public gatherings and retail capacity effective immediately, closing all schools to in-person classes on May 7, and ordering the closure of personal care services and outdoor dining at restaurants beginning May 10. Furthermore, any non-critical business that is the subject of an outbreak will be required to close for 10 days. (44)
May 26, 2021: Premier Kenney announced the Open for Summer Plan, a three-step framework to lift the majority of Alberta's public health orders by July, provided that vaccination numbers increase and hospitalizations continue to decrease. (45)
June 18, 2021: Premier Kenney announced that almost all COVID-19-related restrictions in Alberta would be lifted on July 1 in the third and final stage of the Open for Summer Plan, as over 70% of eligible residents had received at least one vaccine dose as of June 17. (46)
July 1, 2021: Alberta entered Step 3 of the Open for Summer Plan, lifting the majority of public health orders restricting gatherings and retail businesses. Some requirements continue to remain in effect, including self-isolation if tested positive, and masks still being mandatory at AHS facilities, and when using public transportation. (47)
July 12, 2021: "We've been very clear from the beginning that we will not facilitate or accept vaccine passports," Kenney told reporters at the annual premier's Calgary Stampede pancake breakfast on Monday. "I believe they would in principle contravene the Health Information Act and also possibly the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act." (47.1)
July 28, 2021: Alberta announced that it would treat COVID-19 as an endemic respiratory virus similar to other illnesses such as Influenza moving forward, and therefore phase out mandatory self-isolation (beginning with asymptomatic close contacts of positive cases beginning July 29. (48)
August 4, 2021: Hinshaw published an open letter defending the changes, arguing that prioritization of COVID-19 by the health care system "has come at the cost of not fully working on other threats, like syphilis and opioid deaths", mandatory self-isolation was "unjustifiable" with vaccines available, and that it was time to "shift from province-wide extraordinary measures to more targeted and local measures." (49)
August 13, 2021: Citing that the rate of new hospitalizations was higher than anticipated, and due to concerns surrounding the effects of Delta variant on children, Hinshaw announced that the province would delay the discontinuation of mandatory self-isolation, assessment centres for symptomatic testing, and the public transport mask mandate, to September 27. (50)
September 4, 2021: Masks once again became mandatory within public indoor spaces province-wide. Licensed establishments are also prohibited from serving alcohol after 10:00 p.m. nightly, and consumption must end after 11:00 p.m. (51)
September 15, 2021: Premier Kenney reinstated the public health emergency and announced new restrictions that took effect beginning September 16 and September 20.
Restrictions Exemption Program: eligible operations and discretionary events are exempted from public health orders if all patrons over the age of 12 are required to present proof of vaccination for COVID-19, proof that they have tested negative on a privately paid COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours, or documentation issued by a physician or nurse practitioner of a valid medical reason for not being vaccinated. (52)
September 22, 2021: The City of Calgary passed a by-law mandating participation in Restrictions Exemption Program by all facilities and events that are eligible to do so. (53)
December 21, 2021: Kenney announced new restrictions:
Effective December 24, bars and restaurants that require proof of vaccination are limited to 10 per-table. Entertainment is prohibited, alcohol sales must end at 11:00 p.m., and must close at 12:30 a.m.
Venues with a capacity over 1,000 are restricted to 50% capacity. Venues with a capacity under 1,000 are restricted to a maximum of 500. Subject to restrictions on food and drink sales. Masks are mandatory at all times. (54)
December 28, 2021: In excess of 78% of all Albertans have one dose of the COVID-19 treatment and in excess of 72% of all Albertans have two doses. (55)
December 30, 2021: Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announces that K-12 schools won't return until January 10, 2022 (a one week delay) after the Christmas break. (56)
As news of further restrictions are leaked in the early days of 2022, it would appear that we have learned nothing from the past two years.
Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent.
Millions of mRNA doses have been distributed.
Yet, we are no better off than we were in March 2020.
In fact, we are worse off.
Much, much worse off.
** If there is an important event that you think should be added to the timeline, drop a link in the comments below and I will add to this post. **