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Last updateThu, 21 Jan 2021 5pm

COVID restrictions remain in place

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Current COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place for another two weeks, with the exception of in-person learning at Alberta schools.
Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement at a news conference on Thursday, January 7.
According to a press release, while students will return to in-person learning on Monday, January 11, all Albertans, businesses, organizations, and service providers must continue to follow existing health measures until at least January 21. Active evaluation of the latest public health data is underway and will be used to re-evaluate the current level of restrictions over the coming weeks.
“The health measures that were put in place in December have helped to reduce the number of active cases, but it’s not enough,” said Premier Kenney. “Case numbers, hospitalizations, and testing positivity rates remain high. We will be carefully evaluating the data over the coming weeks to determine what options we have to give Albertans back more flexibility in their lives, and give businesses a chance to reopen. But the worst thing we could do would be to increase the chances of another surge, which would threaten our health-care system again and require more restrictions. We must be careful and deliberate, and avoid the roller-coaster of uncertainty that a new surge would create.”
Businesses, organizations, and service providers will be given at least one week’s notice before changes to the current health measures that may affect them. The government will continue to consult with affected industries.
“These mandatory measures are in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, and we are not yet in a position to remove or reduce them. Keeping these measures in place means we are again asking Albertans to make sacrifices—but they are necessary to protect our province,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. “We all have the power to make individual choices to follow the health guidelines and help protect our loved ones, colleagues, and neighbours. We are asking you to keep making those good choices.”
The decision to return to in-class learning is based on the latest evidence which shows, prior to the winter break, new case rates in schools plateaued and then dropped in December once restrictions on social gatherings and group activities were in place.

Province expands small business COVID relaunch grant

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The Alberta Government has expanded and bolstered its Small and Medium Business Enterprise Relaunch grant to help the small business sector react to the COVID -19.
Early in the pandemic, the Alberta Government launched the program in June and offers financial assistance to Alberta businesses, cooperatives, and non-profit organizations with fewer than 500 employees that faced restrictions or closures due to public health orders. Originally the government injected $200 million into the program. With this recent announcement, they have increased the budget to $500 million.
The original program offered funding up to $5,000 in the initial offering. The recent announcement offered another $15,000 to businesses up to $20,000.
Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Tourism and MLA for West Yellowhead Martin Long tells the Mail the program recognizes the need of small businesses.
“With the increased measures that have been announced, we know that is having more of an impact on small businesses in particular,” said Long. “We figured this is the right time to reach out and provide a bit more support, it actually quadrupled the support of the province.”
“With the vaccine starting to be distributed this week, we are just hoping to get these businesses get to the next part of this journey.”
While the vaccine has been rolled out, Alberta is still seeing new COVID-19 cases every day.
Long says the initial uptake of the program was in the area of $65 million of the $200 million budget. About 17,000 businesses took advantage.
“It was well-received in the fact, unlike a lot of programs that had been announced previously, this grant, you didn’t have to go back a year to compare loss of revenue, you could go back to January and February of this year,” he said.
Additionally, the program is now expanding to include job creators who have experienced a 30 per cent revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This lowers the threshold from the existing requirement of 40 per cent revenue loss. The 30 per cent threshold will be available to impacted businesses retroactive to March.
He said one of the hardest-hit sectors was tourism.
“Tourism was particularly impacted immensely, not strictly from a provincial standpoint, but a global standpoint,” he said.
“I want to express my appreciation when we had an easing of restrictions through the late spring and summer, Albertans actually got out in the province and saw the province for the first time… they did a part in helping out hard-hit tourism operators this summer, and kept spent money at home which was a huge help.”
The closing date for the program is March 31, 2021.
He says there are businesses out there that are choosing to go without the offered support.
“I talked to people a few months ago who have purposely not applied for any government programs, federally or provincially, because they are small business owners and they shared with me that they knew the risk getting into small business and they don’t want government handouts,” he said.
He hopes the province is turning the corner.
“I hope we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine, and the control measures, we are confident Albertans are all going to be on board and do their part in this to bring down those numbers and ease the burden on our health care system,” he said.

Wheatland County receives equipment for grain bin rescue


Wheatland County Fire Services is pleased to announce it has been awarded grain rescue equipment by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA), in partnership with G3.
Wheatland County Fire Services participated in BeGrainSafe (CASA’s grain safety program) this fall. The BeGrainSafe training consists of one day of theory and the second day of practical training and evaluation, with an emphasis placed on firefighters learning how to extract a person trapped in grain safely, using a cofferdam and auger.
While training is key, a successful rescue could not happen without the proper equipment. CASA, in partnership with G3, has provided Wheatland County Fire Services with a GSI RES-Q-TUBE and a Haul-ALL pencil auger, both of which are essential in rescuing a grain entrapment victim. This valuable equipment will be stationed out of the Dalum Fire Department. When used in combination, the grain rescue tube creates a barrier between the victim and the grain while the auger helps rescuers quickly move the grain away from the victim.
“The training put on thru CASA and equipment donated by G3 allows us to have properly trained and equipped firefighters to respond to grain entrapment emergencies throughout the County. This will enhance the services we can provide and ensure our firefighters remain safe when dealing with this type of emergency” says Tom Jukes, Wheatland County Deputy Regional Fire Chief. “We would like to thank CASA and G3 and hope we can continue to grow this relationship in the years to come”
The BeGrainSafe program emphasizes prevention and raises awareness of the dangers of grain entrapment, as well as preparing fire departments for grain rescues.
“Harm prevention through awareness has always been a top priority for CASA, and this is never truer than with grain entrapment. However, it’s also important that fire departments are well trained and prepared with the proper equipment in case of an incident,” says Robert Gobeil, CASA’s Agricultural Health and Safety Specialist. “Thanks to G3, this life-saving equipment will be in the hands of those who need it.”
“G3 is committed to providing a safe and healthy working environment for our staff, customers and neighbours in all the communities we serve,” says G3 CEO Don Chapman. “We’re pleased to expand our support for the BeGrainSafe program to include Wheatland County.”


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