Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant vs. your home: Why Alberta's rules are different

If Albertans are planning to have Thanksgiving dinner with their family this year, the rules for how many people they can gather with are different depending on where the gathering will be held.

Currently, indoor social gatherings are not permitted for vaccine-eligible people who are unvaccinated.

However, indoor social gatherings are allowed for those who are vaccinated, but are limited to 10 people with no more than two households in attendance.

So what do you do if you want to meet up with people from more than two households?

Well, you can still visit a restaurant. Or a hockey game.

Businesses, including restaurants, which opted into the government's Restriction Exemption Program are able to offer indoor dining for patrons as long as they require proof of vaccination or negative test result.

Please follow the rules & go above & beyond this weekend. Keep gatherings small & physically distanced, or connecting virtually or meet outdoors. As disappointing and frustrating as this may be, it is a reality we all must face & combat together. (8/8)

— Dr. Deena Hinshaw (@CMOH_Alberta) October 7, 2021

On Thursday, Alberta's medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, was asked why the rules seemed to encourage people to visit a local eatery instead of hosting their own dinner.

"The rules take into account the fact that in structured settings where there is a responsible person overseeing a Restriction Exemption Program that involves proof of vaccination checking where there are enforcement potentials -- with respect to businesses that face potential penalties if they're not complying with the restriction exception program -- the structure in those settings enables a greater level of oversight with respect to ensuring that those measures are in place, and that they're robust," Hinshaw said.

"It's very difficult to enforce it in a home setting, and so this is not about telling Albertans that gathering in a restaurant is safer than gathering in a home if all of those measures are followed, it's about saying that the ability to enforce and monitor and have structured oversight is greater in those settings."

She noted that outdoor gatherings are still allowed.

This Thanksgiving weekend, please do your part to protect our hospitals and follow the current #COVID19AB public health measures. Be safe and help protect each other.

— Dr. Deena Hinshaw (@CMOH_Alberta) October 6, 2021

Previously, the limit on the number of people who could gather outdoors was 200, but it was lowered to 20 as of Oct. 6.

"The measures are in place for a short period of time right now because hospitals our overwhelmed," Hinshaw continued.

"So these are extraordinary measures and they're required because of the extraordinary pressures on our system so, while I know it's disappointing … The difference is all about the oversight, the administration and the enforcement potential in settings that are implementing REP vs. settings that are private homes."