This entry is part 37 of 39 in the series COVID-19.

As of today, April 9, Alberta has added more “Stop the spike” restrictions after it reverted back to Step 1 earlier this week. These restrictions will remain in place “until further notice.” The main change effective at noon today impacts restaurants.

What changes are there for churches?

Churches can still meet at 15% of fire code capacity.

There is a lengthy guidance document for places of worship that outlines recommendations for everything from shoe removal, to prohibiting embracing ceremonial objects, to lining garbage receptacles used for water cups, to having congregants bring their own communion items.

In-home faith group meetings are prohibited, as are all indoor social gatherings.

There is an exception for faith leaders visiting a person at the end of their life (4-6 weeks, as determined by a primary health care provider), so long as no more than three visitors are there at the same time (see Part 2, section 4(k) of the CMOH Order).

What about good works, weddings and funerals?

Social services can remain open for in-person services. That includes shelters and soup kitchens (faith-based or otherwise).

Like the exception for in-home visits from faith leaders, there are similar exemptions for educational instruction (d), to provide counselling services (j), to deliver items (f), provide social services (h) and others.

Weddings are limited to 10 people, which includes the officiant, bride and groom and witnesses. Funerals are allowed with up to 20 people, but this does not include funeral service or facility staff, funeral clergy and event organizers who are not considered invited guests. The rules apply to any facility, whether indoors or outdoors, whether seated or standing.

Wedding and funeral receptions are prohibited.

The 4-Step Plan

The 4-Step Path Forward indicates that Step 1 applies where there are less than 600 hospitalizations and declining cases, Step 2 where there are less than 450 hospitalizations and declining cases, Step 3 at less than 300 and declining cases, and Step 4 at less than 150 and declining cases, with a minimum three weeks between each stage. According to the Alberta stats page, as at April 9, there are currently 340 hospitalizations in the province, 83 of which are ICU admissions, and the average age of COVID-19 related deaths is 81.

The recent return to Step 1 has created a divide within the United Conservative Party. Seventeen MLAs have signed a public statement expressing concerns about the decision to impose further restrictions. The letter supports the government’s previously announced path forward to reopening, which took the health threat seriously and provided a transparent, step-by-step plan. But the MLAs see the move back to Step 1 as “effectively abandoning the plan that Albertans had worked diligently over the past months to follow.”

This controversy highlights what seems to be a growing sense of frustration, not just in Alberta, but across the country (see John Pellowe’s blog post Challenging Authorities: Using Reason to Persuade for an example of one BC church’s plea).

Whether you’re feeling perfectly content or feeling discouraged, all of our members are invited to join discussions in The Green where we can learn from and be encouraged by one another!

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Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.

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