Alberta to begin gradual reopening next week, with emphasis on outdoor activities

Alberta’s gradual relaunch plan will begin next week with the resumption of some non-urgent surgeries and office re-openings for dentists, physiotherapists, speech and respiratory therapists, social workers and dieticians.

The earliest step of the province’s plan puts an emphasis on outdoor activities.

Premier Jason Kenney detailed his government’s plan for a staged relaunch of the Alberta economy at a news conference on Thursday.

“It feels like a lot more than 56 days since the first presumptive case of the novel coronavirus was reported here in Alberta on March 5,” Kenney said. “But together Albertans have responded to the worst global pandemic in over a century with a great deal of common sense, but also making tremendous sacrifices and demonstrating great resilience.

“Your efforts have succeeded in containing the spread of the virus far below the devastating scale of the outbreak in many other places, and well below the capacity of our health-care system to cope.”

On Thursday, Alberta reported three more deaths and 190 new cases of COVID-19. One earlier death thought to be due to COVID-19 was not, so the number of deaths in the province is now 89. The province has recorded 5,355 cases.

Golf, boating, camping

Golf courses will be allowed to open on May 4, though clubhouses and pro shops will have to remain closed.

Starting on Monday, some boat launches in provincial parks will be opened, and the province said its goal will be to have as many campsites as possible open by June 1.

No washrooms or garbage pickup will be immediately available within provincial parks.

Alberta Parks’ online reservation system will be available May 14, while private and municipal campgrounds can reopen under their own authority. 

Vehicle access to parking lots and staging areas in parks and on public lands will begin on Monday.

Stage 1

If efforts to control the spread of the virus are effected, so that hospitals and intensive care units can deal with the caseload, the province will move to Stage 1, based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

In Stage 1, some businesses and facilities could be allowed to gradually resume operations early as May 14, including

  • Retail businesses, such as clothing, furniture and bookstores. All vendors at farmers markets will also be able to operate.
  • Hair styling and barber shops.
  • Museums and art galleries.
  • Daycares and out-of-school care with limits on occupancy.
  • Summer camps with limits on occupancy. That could include summer school.
  • Cafés, restaurants with no bar service to reopen for public seating at 50 per cent capacity.

As the province slowly reopens, Kenney said, Albertans will still face the most severe economic conditions since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“While we continue to see new cases, and expect to as long as the virus is around, we’ve achieved our primary goal of flattening the curve of infections to keep our health-care system from being overwhelmed,” Kenney said.

“But with today’s launch of Alberta’s relaunch strategy, we can finally begin to shift our focus from the pain and anxiety of the past few weeks and to start looking, with modest hope and cautious confidence, toward the future.”

Post-secondary institutions will continue to deliver courses, but the way those courses are delivered — whether online or in-person — will depend on what restrictions remain in place at each relaunch phase.

The use of masks will be strongly recommended in certain crowded public spaces, such as mass transit.

Under Stage 1, gatherings of more than 15 people will still be prohibited.

Arts and culture festivals, major sporting events, and concerts, movie theatres, theatres, swimming pools, recreation centres, arenas, spas, gyms and nightclubs will all remain closed.

Stage 2

If the province continues to meet its goals in controlling the spread of the virus, it would then move to Stage 2.

Under Stage 2, additional businesses and services would be allowed to reopen, with two-metre physical-distancing requirements and other public health guidelines in place. That might include:

  • kindergarten to Grade 12 schools, with restrictions.
  • more scheduled surgeries, including backlog elimination.
  • personal services, such as artificial tanning, esthetics, cosmetic skin and body treatments, manicures, pedicures, waxing, facial treatments, massage and reflexology.
  • permitting some larger gatherings (number of people to be determined)
  • Movie theatres and theatres open with restrictions
  • Visitors to patients at health-care facilities will continue to be limited.

In Stage 2, nightclubs, gyms, pools, recreation centres, and arenas will remain closed.

Stage 3

Again, if the case numbers remain under control, at some point the province would move to Stage 3. That would mean fully reopening all businesses and services, with some limited restrictions still in place, and:

  • permitting larger gatherings, permitting arts and culture festivals, concerts and major sporting events, with some restrictions.
  • permitting nightclubs, gyms, pools, recreation centres and arenas to reopen, with restrictions.
  • resuming industry conferences, with restrictions.
  • lifting restrictions on non-essential travel.

The challenge Albertans face now is to begin returning to a more normal life, Kenney said, though a full return to normal won’t come until there is an effective vaccine or treatment.

“I want Albertans to know that our public health officials are constantly reviewing and improving our public health guidelines to keep us safe as we begin to resume economic and personal social activities,” Kenney said.

“You can expect to see changes and clarifications to this plan as it unfolds — so, it is not set in stone. It is going to be a plan that develops over time, based on how well we are doing to combat the virus.”

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