Alberta will once again move forward with plans to reopen after suffering a crippling third wave of COVID-19 cases this spring.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement during a press conference Wednesday morning. He said they put out the call to Albertans and they responded.
“Thank you to all Albertans for rising to the challenge. The diligence and sacrifices of Albertans hasn’t just stopped the spike, but crushed it,” he said.
“Today, we are truly near the end of this thing. We’re leaving the darkest days of the pandemic behind and stepping into the warm light of summer.”
Nearly 2.6 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, the Premier said. The “open for summer” plan depends on reduced hospitalizations and increased immunizations.
Three stage plan for reopening
Alberta’s Open for Summer Plan includes three stages based on vaccination thresholds and hospitalizations:
- Stage 1: Two weeks after 50 per cent of Albertans age 12-plus have received at least one dose of vaccine and COVID-19 hospitalizations are below 800 and declining.
- Stage 2: Two weeks after 60 per cent of Albertans age 12-plus have received at least one dose of vaccine and COVID-19 hospitalizations are below 500 and declining.
- Stage 3: Two weeks after 70 per cent of Albertans age 12-plus have received at least one dose of vaccine.
Once stage 3 is reached, all public health restrictions will be lifted and masks can be left at home. The premier said that things could be open as early as June 28. But it will take a vaccination commitment from Albertans.
“If large numbers of Albertans keep getting vaccinated and keep following all the public health orders and guidelines in the meantime, we’ll reopen in just a matter of weeks,” he said.
While previous lockdowns have not been as effective as many individuals have hoped, the premier promises that Alberta is ready for these next stages.
“We wouldn’t be taking these measures if we thought that it would in any way jeopardize our healthcare system,” he said.
Kenney’s tone seemed optimistic as he urges Albertans to do their part in order to achieve normalcy.
“This is our chance,” he said. “Now is our time, Alberta.”
“I hope that this plan does not continue Jason Kenney’s pattern of failure to responsibly manage Alberta’s pandemic response.”- Rachel Notley
While Kenney is confident in Alberta’s ability to fully re-open possibly as soon as early July, the leader of the Official Opposition, Rachel Notley, is not convinced.
“I am concerned about the pace of this reopening plan, given that we had the highest rate of infection of anywhere in Canada or the US earlier this very month,” she said.
“Jason Kenney has downplayed the risk of COVID, he has ignored warnings, he failed to act for weeks on end when the danger was obvious, and he failed to enforce the rules until the violations became international news.”
The premier said that the Calgary Stampede will be fully possible as long as the reopening targets are met, and community groups are able to plan events like the pancake breakfasts in time.
“There’s going to be some pretty good business, I think, for those in the events, entertainment industry, they need a little bit of business, they need some love,” he said.
Kenney said the government has been working closely with the organizers of the Stampede, but have been facing criticism on Twitter from a Calgary city councillor. Kenney said the councillor is accusing the government of not working with major events.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. The major events group over at public health division have been working daily with groups like the Calgary Stampede over the past several months to plan out various different kinds of contingencies, and to give them some guidelines,” he said.
As for what the 2021 Stampede will look like, Kenney said there will certainly be a rodeo, but there will not be a permit for the parade. Booking talent, he said, has been difficult for organizers as contracts can take months to create.
“I fully anticipate we’ll have as much Stampede as the community can put on,” Kenney said.
COVID-19 restriction timeline
On March 12, 2020, the first restrictions called for a cancellation of events hosting over 250 people. At this time, there were 23 coronavirus cases within Alberta. Albertans were encouraged to remain within Canada and stop travel. Airports, shopping centres, and schools were allowed to remain open.
Following March 12, as cases rose steadily, more places began closing in effort to slow the spread. March 17 brought a state of public health emergency.
At the end of April, the provincial relaunch was released. Stage one began on May 14, stage two on June 12, and then cases began to spike again on July 27.
In September, schools opened and over one million tests had been completed in Alberta. Cases stubbornly climbed as the province held out on applying new restrictions
On Dec. 8, 2020, new health restrictions were applied. In-person dining and outdoor gatherings were banned. One week later, on Dec. 15, the first doses of the vaccine were administered.
On January 29, 2021, new reopening measures were introduced. Despite the rise of COVID-19 variants, restrictions began to lift. Restaurants and gyms reopen with limited capacity.
Cases begin rising again, and Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw warned people to refrain from being careless with public health rules.
The beginning of April 2021 brought announcements of Alberta’s third shutdown, but with looser restrictions.
The beginning of May, those restrictions became tighter as cases were not dropping.
Related COVID updates
May 21, 2021, the City of Calgary renewed its state of local emergency.
Majority of students are back to in-person learning as of May 26 after three weeks of online schooling. Young teens are able to get vaccines.
Vaccinated individuals have relaxed quarantine rules. They no longer have to quarantine if they face exposure to COVID-19, as long as they are not showing symptoms.