Alberta begins the slow, methodical process back to new normal as the province rolled out its staged approach for coronavirus recovery.
The primary stage of reopening will begin in Alberta May 14.
Beginning May 4, some outdoor recreation, including golf courses, can reopen, as long as pro shops and clubhouses aren’t open. Elective surgeries and other health services, such as dentistry, can reopen. Religious services are allowed.
While this unfolds, Albertans must continue to adhere to public health guidelines, including social distancing, groups of less than 15 and other measures. Masks should be used in close contact situations.
Some businesses will be at reduced capacity to maintain these rules.
“If people take this as a licence to just let ‘er rip, to go out there and congregate in big crowds and ignore the public health rules … we’ll probably see a significant spike (cases) and then we’ll have to come in and shut a lot of things down again,” said Premier Jason Kenney.
The premier said that they could make changes to how Alberta’s relaunch is rolled out. If cases, hospitalizations, or ICU admissions rise higher than what they expect changes to this plan could be enforced.
“I want you to know that our public health officials are constantly reviewing and approving our public health guidelines to keep us safe as we begin to resume and economic and personal social activities,” said Premier Kenney.
“You can expect to see changes, and clarifications to this plan as it unfolds so it is not set in stone.”
Some of these changes could be made locally. It may be to the point of managing certain towns or cities or localized outbreaks, if necessary.
New Alberta coronavirus cases drop, testing rises
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the province recorded 190 new cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the provincial total to 5,355.
To date, there have been 148,937 tests, with 5,051 new tests done in the past 24 hours. There have been 2,161 recoveries.
Updating specific outbreaks, Dr. Hinshaw said there are now 908 cases connected to the workforce at Cargill meat-packing plant. Of those, 631 have recovered, said Dr. Hinshaw.
In addition, there have been 333 cases among workers at JBS in Brooks.
“While we continue to work to prevent transmissions in these outbreaks, we have seen low numbers maintained in most of the province,” said Dr. Hinshaw.
“We cannot let up an outbreak control that we can celebrate today what we have accomplished.”
What about schools, parks, sports?
Premier Kenney said that most schools will not return until the next scholastic year in late August or early September.
“We’ve been engaged in consultations with the school boards and overwhelmingly what we’ve heard is that they would prefer not to come back,” said Premier Kenney, noting that they were advised it would take three weeks for schools to be mobilized again.
“That was the expectation that was established when we suspended this schools back I think on March 16.”
Premier Kenney said that some Alberta parks would reopen as early as this weekend, with some vehicle access being allowed. Online camping reservations would restart May 14, with many parks seeing limited access to ensure ongoing spacing.
The first stage of outdoor activities is allowed starting this weekend. Other outdoor recreation is allowed during stage 1 (May 14.) Indoor recreation activities aren’t pegged until Stage 3.
Premier Kenney said how those stages roll out relies on the ongoing status of the virus in Alberta.
City of Calgary response
The City of Calgary expected to provide a more fulsome response at its Friday coronavirus press conference.
“We are reviewing the Province’s relaunch strategy. Re-opening the provincial economy requires a plan, and it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into this announcement from the Province,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi, in a prepared statement.
“A phased approach allows for us all to be watchful for any future outbreaks and ensure we re-open at a speed that is safe for our communities.”