Alberta could fully reopen by early July, Kenney says

The Alberta government has unveiled its three-stage “open for summer” plan, a strategy tied directly to vaccination and hospitalization numbers that could see all public-health restrictions lifted by July.

The province will enter Stage 1 on June 1 and is expected to be fully open by the beginning of July or earlier, Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday at a news conference.

“We are optimistic that we’ll enter Stage 3 by early July,” Kenney said. “And what a great day that will be. Events like K-Days and Calgary Stampede can proceed at that point with full participation.”

The 15 months have been “incredibly tough,” filled with sacrifices, loss and adapting to sudden changes, Kenney said.

“Today we are truly near the end of this thing,” he said. “We’re leaving the darkest days of the pandemic behind and stepping into the warm light of summer.”

Thresholds already met

Stage 1 requires that 50 per cent of Albertans aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, and that COVID-19 hospitalizations are below 800 and declining. Both those thresholds have already been met, Kenney said.

That means that starting on Friday places of worship will be allowed to open with 15-per-cent capacity limit. Starting June 1, the rest of Stage 1 would kick in, which includes:

  • Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people
  • Personal and wellness services allowed to reopen
  • Restaurant patios allowed to reopen
  • Outdoor sports and recreation for up to 10 people
  • Retail stores allowed to have up to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy

Stage 2 would begin two weeks after 60 per cent of eligible Albertans have received at least one dose of vaccine, and COVID-19 hospitalizations are below 500 and declining.

“Based on our current bookings, we expect to hit that 60-per-cent mark sometime this week,” Kenney said, “perhaps as early as tomorrow, which puts us on track to start this stage 2 in mid-June.”

Libraries, gyms and theatres

In Stage 2, libraries and movie theatres could reopen, places of worship and retail stores could have one-third of occupancy, restaurants could seat groups of up to six indoors and outdoors, gyms could reopen and outdoor gatherings could include up to 20 people.

“Some restrictions will be in place [during Stage 2] to continue keeping numbers down, driving them down further, so that we can then safely open up altogether,” Kenney said. “But things will really start to look and feel normal again once we reach this stage.”

Stage 3 would begin two weeks after 70 per cent of eligible Albertans have had at least one dose of vaccine. That stage will not be tied to hospitalization numbers.

At this stage, most public health restrictions — including the ban on indoor social gatherings — will be history and we’ll be able to enjoy a truly great Albertan summer,” Kenney said. “Almost all health restrictions will be gone.”

‘Crushed it’

The government brought in tougher public health orders in early May aimed at tamping down a surge of cases that saw the province lead North America in daily infection rates.

“Three weeks ago, we asked Albertans to stop the spike,” Kenney said. “The diligence and sacrifices of Albertans hasn’t just stopped the spike but crushed it.”

While the health system remains under real pressure, there is good news in the declining numbers of case and hospitalization numbers alongside rising rates of vaccine protection, he said.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Doug Schweitzer, minister of jobs, economy and innovation, attended the announcement. 

On Tuesday, there were 12,078 active cases across the province. Alberta hospitals were treating 565 patients with COVID-19, including 158 in intensive care.

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