Alberta coronavirus relaunch begins, Calgary staged over next two weeks

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, with Premier Jason Kenny in the background, at a press conference earlier this year. ALBERTA GOVERNMENT FLICKR

Calgary’s Stage 1 coronavirus relaunch will be phased in over the next two weeks, the Premier said Wednesday.

Premier Jason Kenney said in the daily coronavirus briefing, that Stage 1 would proceed as expected province-wide, except in The City Calgary and Brooks.

That decision was made after Premier Kenney said that Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw flagged those two cities.

“This is consistent with the regional approach that we said might be required when we first announced our relaunch plan a couple of weeks ago,” said Premier Kenney.

Unlike the rest of the province, Calgary will not see services such as barber shops, salons, caf├ęs, restaurants and eateries, and day camps included in openings May 14.

Instead, they will be spread over the next two weeks, with only retail services, farmer’s markets, museums, galleries, and child care available on May 14. Other services will open on May 25 and June 1.

Screenshot of Alberta relaunch briefing.

Don’t want to risk sacrifices made with premature opening, said Dr. Hinshaw

Dr. Hinshaw said that while the province’s COVID-19 battle is far from over, Albertans’ should be proud of what they achieved.

“We often think that one person’s actions can’t make a difference,” she said.

“But by following public health guidance, practicing physical distancing washing our hands regularly and staying home when sick – every single one of us has helped to save lives.”

There likely mixed emotions about the reopening, Dr. Hinshaw said. Many Albertans excited and relieved to reopen and resume business. Other are apprehensive about opening to quickly.

“I want to assure you that protecting Albertans health and well being is at the forefront of every decision that is made,” she said.

“We would not jeopardize all that you have risked and sacrificed by beginning to reopen prematurely. I feel confident that it is the right time to move into stage one.”

Little lead time for Calgary business

Some Calgary businesses, including shopping malls, expected an opening date of May 14. They’ll have to wait.

Premier Kenney said he regrets if any business went to great expense to get prepared for the May 14 date. He said when the relaunch was outlined just over two weeks ago, Albertans were told there could be a regional approach and that it would be data driven.

Dr. Hinshaw said she recognizes that it’s literally hours before businesses across the province can open. In Calgary, many businesses were preparing to open along with the rest of the province.

“The challenge that we’re facing is the need to make decisions with the most up to date data, which unfortunately makes it challenging to give a lot of lead time,” said Dr. Hinshaw.

Even with the openings, Dr. Hinshaw and Premier Kenney said it’s important for Albertans to understand that citizens still need to adhere to public health guidelines.

“We do not want to go back,” she said.

“This is why we need Albertans to continue to do their part. It will take all our efforts to continue to keep our infection rate low and prevent a surge in cases that would require us to consider restricting movement and businesses again.”

Data-driven decision on Alberta relaunch

To start off Wednesday’s briefing, Premier Kenney outlined how the province has come in well under the April 28 modelling.

He said hospitalizations were pegged at 600 and ICU admissions at 119 at the suspected mid-May peak. Between those two categories, we peaked at 96 in April. Now there are 70 in hospital, with 11 in ICU.

He said more encouraging news is that recovered cases now outnumber active cases nearly four to one.

The decision to lag in Calgary and Brooks came down to the data not being as good as the rest of Alberta. There are still outbreaks in these areas.

Premier Kenney said Calgary has a case rate of 74 per 100,000 population, while provincewide it’s 29.

Dr. Hinshaw said they are constantly monitoring data and adjusting how they move forward.

“We are taking a measured and gradual approach,” she said.

“If we need to provide government with advice to make community adjustments to the relaunch strategy, we will.”

  • With files from Darren Krause

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