The Walls are Closing In!
Given the rapid rise of novel COVID-19 infections in Alberta, the Province has declared a state of emergency. Transmission of the virus has doubled in the past month. Without immediate interventions, the virus will predictably double again by the New Year. For some who are not in a high-risk category, it may not be worrisome to develop flue-like symptoms, or no symptoms at all! But, vulnerable individuals have lost their lives due to COVID in Alberta, at a rate 147% greater than all flue-related deaths in the last year. All lives matter, not just our own.
Effective this week, new restrictions are being implemented across Alberta. Some of these restrictions have ripple effects into Edmonton Trail Community (ETC). The purpose of this communication is to provide clarity that will hopefully ensure full compliance without creating unnecessary hardship. While the government is doing their best to provide clear direction, these are complicated issues and confusion is wide-spread.
Can Timmy Come Out to Play?
Outdoor gatherings are banned effective immediately. However, outdoor social gatherings are not the same as outdoor fitness activities. The government has defined a gathering as “any situation that brings people together in the same space at the same time for the same purpose.” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), has further clarified this definition as “people mixing and mingling…in one spot”. The intent of this restriction is to stop the highest transmission activities, which are private social gatherings such as in-home parties, backyard barbecues and the like. Currently, these gatherings constitute the most common cause of all transmissions. Both indoor and outdoor social gatherings are banned until further notice.
What does this mean for ETC? Those wanting to enjoy recreational outdoor activities with others may continue to do so. However, there is a ten-person limit and physical distancing must be followed. At the December 8th press conference, Dr. Hinshaw stated that:
“What we have not prohibited is the ability for people to do fitness activities as long as there’s distancing if they’re from different households. … So, the outdoor fitness type activities at this time again are not prohibited or restricted except for the requirement for distancing… and that distinction again is [sic] that we don’t want people gathering together, socializing and being in close contact. [T]hat is exactly what the restriction is targeted at.”
Our ability to continue to engage in outdoor activities together is not a loophole meant to by-pass safety measures. Rather, this is an evidence-based decision that recognizes the low transmission rate of COVID-19 at movement-based outdoor activities. At the November 24th press conference, the Premier noted that only a small percentage of all transmissions were occurring at outdoor activities, and specifically at sporting events such as tournaments. The province’s limit of ten persons – all physically distanced, all outdoors – lowers the risk of potential outbreaks where the data has shown a real risk of transmission.
We’re Close, but are we a Close Contact?
Can cohort running friends attend recreational activities without distancing from each other? Until November 24th, the Province permitted up to three cohort groups per person, to a maximum of 15 people per cohort group. Some of our community formed running cohorts of “the same people all the time” (that’s a cohort by definition). However, with the failure of contact tracing, the CMOH has conceded that self-isolation and cohort groups may currently be ineffective to stop the spread.
The most recent guidance requires that outdoor fitness participants continue to maintain six feet distancing from each other except where they are part of the same household. Cohorts are no longer a thing, as per Order 38-2020, which removed cohort groups outside the same household. The same order expanded the definition of “household” to allow for individuals who live alone, permitting them to form their own cohort group of at least two others in the absence of a household cohort. This means that outdoor fitness activities may have individuals in close contact only if they are from the same household group. Otherwise, physical distancing must be maintained at all times.
Who made Santa’s Nice List?
We are proud of the Edmonton Trail Community for being part of keeping each other and all others safe these past nine months. You have gathered six-feet-apart week after week to safely enjoy the trails together. You’ve stood on distanced crayon-coloured rubber mats spread out over a field before the start of a run, looking like a throwback to kindergarten story time. You’ve moved around your schedules to adjust to new times and sign-up sheets. You’ve sent kind emails and thank-you notes when we’ve had to press pause just hours before an activity. You have never wavered in good will and your best effort. YOU are the reason why we have not had a single transmission. And you are especially the reason we have this amazing community.
What next? Get outside, follow the rules, enjoy the trails. Nature is waiting for you. And remember to spread as much kindness as possible this holiday season – not everyone is in the same boat, and we’re all still in the same storm.
Happy trails and stay safe,
Sheryl, ETC Founder (2014)
UPDATE! (December 11, 2020)
We at ETC are aware that not everyone is applying the new guidelines the same way. This is a complicated issue and, I’ll be honest – even with a law degree, it’s taken me more hours than I’d care to admit to figure it all out. I’d like to reassure everyone that Service Alberta has confirmed our interpretation of the new restrictions. However, I also appreciate the CMOH’s efforts to clarify in recent days. I fully agree with Dr. Hinshaw’s recommendation, which encourages those who can still do fitness activities within their household cohort to default to that option. It makes sense to keep our fitness bubbles as safe and as small as possible. (https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/dr-deena-hinshaw-to-give-update-on-covid-19-in-alberta-at-330-p-m)
We also know that many of our athletes don’t have households who recreate together. Trying to get kids or partners to exercise as a household has been a life goal of many of our athletes. The struggle is real. In keeping with the spirit of the COVID guidelines, which is to limit activities that are know to be a real risk of transmission (social gatherings) while also ensuring well-being where possible (fitness activities), please contact us at email@example.com if you need safe and compliant trail fitness options. We are here to support you through this challenging time.
 Press Conference, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, October 26, 2020, December 8, 2020.
 Press Conference, Premier Jason Kenney, November 24, 2020.
 Exceptions include visits between a child and a parent (guardian) located in different homes, services provided to a home, deliveries to a home, and responding to an emergency.
 An adult living with minor child(ren) is considered to be someone living alone, and is permitted to form a cohort household group of at least two others.