On April 30, 2020 the Alberta Government announced that as part of the "Early Actions of Alberta's Relaunch Strategy", select businesses and services will be permitted to begin operations provided they follow proper health and safety guidelines.
The following businesses and services will be permitted to begin operations on the following dates:
- May 1-2, 2020
- A number of boat launches are expected to open with the goal to have all boat launches open by May 14, 2020;
- Vehicle access to parking lots and staging areas on public lands and parks are expected to open;
- Private and municipal campgrounds and parks can open now with physical distancing restrictions, under their own local authority; and
- Golf courses can open starting May 2, 2020 with certain restrictions, including keeping clubhouses and pro shops closed. On-site shops and restaurants may also open. Please see the attached fact sheet issued by the Alberta Government providing risk mitigation guidance for golf course operators "Alberta Government Risk Mitigation Fact Sheet - Guidance for Golf Course".
- May 4, 2020
- Dental and other health-care workers, such as physiotherapists, speech language pathologists, respirator therapists, audiologists, social workers, occupational therapists, dieticians and more will be allowed to resume services, as long as the approved guidelines set by their professional colleges are followed. Alberta Health Services will also resume scheduled, non-urgent surgeries.
- May 14, 2020
- Alberta Parks' online campground reservation system will open for bookings at select campgrounds starting June 1, 2020 onward with some restrictions in place. The bookings will only be available to Albertans.
The dates provided above are the earliest dates that re-opening for the above businesses and services can occur. However, the actual date of recommenced operations may be delayed. Certain municipally owned and operated golf courses will open when approved by the municipality and services, such as dental and other health care services, will resume once guidelines have been developed by their professional colleges. For example, the Alberta Dental Association & College (the "College") issued a statement that although the Alberta Government has stated that dental services can resume May 4, 2020, the College will only permit dentists to provide urgent dental care in addition to emergent care starting May 4, 2020. The College anticipates that if the Relaunch Strategy remains on track, dentists will be able to provide further services, including non-urgent dental services, starting May 14, 2020.
While the Alberta Government is beginning to explore loosening certain emergency measures, it did stress that Albertans should continue to follow public health guidelines.
The Alberta Government also announced Alberta's Relaunch Strategy (the "Relaunch Strategy"), which a three stage plan to open up businesses and services in the province. Stage 1 of the Relaunch Strategy may begin as early as May 14, 2020, provided that certain health measures are achieved to the satisfaction of the Alberta Government based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Stage 1 would allow some businesses and services to re-open provided public health guidelines are followed. This includes:
- Retail businesses, such as clothing, furniture and bookstores;
- All farmers' market vendors;
- Some personal services such as hairstyling and barber shops;
- Physiotherapy, chiropractic, optometry and similar services;
- More scheduled surgeries and dental procedures;
- Museum and art galleries;
- Some additional outdoor recreation;
- Daycares and out of school care with limits on occupancy;
- Summer camps with limits on occupancy;
- Post-secondary institutions will continue course delivery, but method (online, in-person or blend) will depend on the restrictions in place at each phase; and
- Cafés, restaurants (minors allowed in liquor-licensed establishments) with no bar service to re-open for public seating at 50% capacity.
Prior to re-opening, businesses and services that fall under the Stage 1 categories will be required to review the health and safety guidelines developed by the Alberta Government for workplaces and will need to determine how they will ensure the guidelines are adhered to.
Stage 2 of the Relaunch Strategy will allow the following additional businesses and services to re-open provided they follow public health guidelines:
- Potential opening of K-12 schools, with restrictions;
- Libraries, with restrictions;
- More scheduled surgeries;
- More personal services like artificial tanning, esthetics, cosmetic skin and body treatments, manicures, pedicures, waxing, facial treatments, massage and reflexology;
- Restaurants, cafes, lounges, and bars continue operating at reduced capacity; and
- Movie theatres and theatres with restrictions.
Stage 3 of the Relaunch Strategy will allow the following additional businesses and services to re-open with some restrictions and enhanced protection controls remaining in place:
- Fully opening all businesses and services, with some restrictions;
- Arts and cultures festivals, concerts and major sporting events will be permitted with restrictions;
- Nightclubs, gyms, pools, recreation centres and arenas will re-open, with restrictions; and
- Industry conferences can resume, with restrictions.
No timetable has been set for Stage 2 and Stage 3 at this time. The target dates for these stages will be determined based on health indicators. For more information and a complete list, please see "Opening Soon: Alberta's Relaunch Strategy".
The Alberta Government has also announced the launch of a contact tracing mobile phone application (AB Trace Together) to help combat the spread of COVID-19. We anticipate other mobile phone applications related to COVID-19 to be developed and launched in the coming weeks.
Gowling WLG Focus
The implementation of Stage 1 of the Relaunch Strategy is not expected to impact businesses that have continued to operate as a result of either being deemed an essential service or not having been otherwise ordered to close. Such business should continue to conduct their operations as they have been to date, ensuring compliance with the health and safety guidelines developed by the Alberta Government.
Although we expect the Alberta Government to provide specific guidance in terms of risk mitigation techniques, businesses will ultimately be responsible for implementing appropriate measures in practice when re-opening their operations to ensure compliance with occupational health and safety obligations of ensuring the health and safety of workers and individuals in the workplace. This may become a challenging exercise for some businesses given the need to strike an appropriate balance between often competing obligations of health and safety requirements, privacy and employment law considerations, economic realities and ensuring adherence with evolving government and regulatory guidance. Many businesses will also be tasked with the process of recalling employees, revising and implementing return to work schedules and amending workplace policies while complying with governmental health and safety guidelines, considering employment standards, and adequately managing contractual and common law obligations. It is important for businesses to complete a privacy assessment before implementing new measures which require the collection, use and/or disclosure of personal information of individuals, such as temperature screening, wellness checks or location tracing. If businesses choose to rely on data provided by such new measures and technological applications as part of their return to work plans, they should ensure that such information is being collected, used and/or disclosed in accordance with their policies and applicable laws. As businesses start to navigate through this novel process and formulate and implement their respective plans, it will be important to consider the legal implications of such strategies to ensure an orderly transition and return to work.
We will continue to provide regular updates with respect to the Relaunch Strategy as additional information becomes available.
We invite you to contact a member of Gowling WLG's Alberta Essential Services Team, Zafar B. Jaffer and/or Krista Schofer, if you have questions regarding the Relaunch Strategy.