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Thursday , 1 October 2020
Image above credit to Alex Tétrault, National Observer.

Alberta to start opening businesses as early as May 14 as province unveils four-stage plan to ease restrictions

Image credit: Alex Tétrault, National Observer.

Premier Jason Kenney unveiled the province’s four-stage relaunch strategy on Thursday, the guide to “managing risk” and ease restrictions put in place since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“We’ve achieved our primary goal of flattening the curve of infections to keep our health care system from being overwhelmed,” he said during a press conference on Thursday.

Outdoor recreation is an emphasis in the early easing of restrictions including opening a number of boat launches in provincial parks on May 1 while working to have them all open by May 14.

May 14 is the earliest date when the first stage of re-opening will begin.

Camping will be allowed

The government is working hard to make campsites available as soon as possible, with the goal to have as many open as possible by June 1. At this time, sites are open to Albertans only and group and comfort camping will not be offered along with restrictions to showers, picnic area and cooking shelters.

Alberta Parks’ online reservation system will be available May 14 to book site visits beginning June 1. Out-of-province bookings will not be processed.

Private and municipal campgrounds and parks can open with physical distancing restrictions, under their own local authority.

Golf courses can open on May 4, with restrictions including keeping clubhouses and pro shops closed.

On-site shops and restaurants can open in stage one, consistent with other businesses and retailers.

Additional restrictions will be lifted in stages when safe, and enhancing testing, contact tracing, supports, and continuing strong protections for vulnerable populations, will be all part of the process in advancing to the first stage of re-opening.

A rapid response plan is in place in the event of possible outbreaks of COVID-19.

Physical distancing requirements of two metres will remain in place through all stages of relaunch and hygiene practices will continue to be required of businesses and individuals, along with instructions for Albertans to stay home when exhibiting symptoms such as cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, or sore throat.

First stage of re-opening

With increased infection prevention and controls, to minimize the risk of increased transmission of infections, some businesses and facilities can start to gradually resume operations as early as May 14:

  • Retail businesses, such as clothing, furniture and bookstores. All vendors at farmers markets will also be able to operate.
  • Some personal services like hairstyling and barber shops.
  • Museums and art galleries.
  • More scheduled surgeries, dental procedures, physiotherapy, chiropractic, optometry and similar services.
  • Daycares and out-of-school care with limits on occupancy.
  • Summer camps with limits on occupancy. This could include summer school.
  • Cafés, restaurants (minors allowed in liquor licensed establishments) with no bar service to reopen for public seating at 50 per cent capacity.
  • Some additional outdoor recreation.

Still not in Stage 1:

  • Gatherings of more than 15 people. (Gatherings of 15 people or fewer must follow personal distancing and other public health guidelines.)
  • Arts and culture festivals, major sporting events, and concerts, all of which involve close physical contact.
  • Movie theatres, theatres, pools, recreation centres, arenas, spas, gyms and nightclubs will remain closed.
  • Visitors to patients at health-care facilities will continue to be limited.
  • In-school classes for kindergarten to Grade 12 students.

Non-essential travel, especially travel outside the province, is not recommended.

Remote working is advised where possible.

Second stage of re-opening

Timing of this stage will be determined by the success of Stage 1, considering the capacity of the health-care system and continued limiting and/or reduction of the rate of infections, hospitalization and ICU cases.

Additional businesses and services will be allowed to reopen and resume operations with two metre physical distancing requirements and other public health guidelines in place.

  • Potential 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 of some larger gatherings (number of people to be determined as we learn more about the levels of risk for different activities) in some situations.
  • Movie theatres and theatres open with restrictions.

Still not permitted in stage 2:

  • Nightclubs, gyms, pools, recreation centres, and arenas will remain closed.
  • Arts and culture festivals, concerts, attendance at major sporting events and other mass gatherings will continue to not be permitted.

Non-essential travel is not recommended.

Third stage of re-opening

Timing of this stage is to be determined based on the success of stages 1 and 2 and will involve:

  • Fully reopening all businesses and services, with some limited restrictions still in place.
  • Permitting larger gatherings (number of people to be determined).
  • 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.
  • No restrictions on non-essential travel.

Local areas could be eased while others aren’t

Premier Kenney alluded to the potential for some areas of the province to be more restricted than others due to the risk of virus spreading.

While restrictions are gradually eased across the province, an outbreak may mean that they need to be strengthened temporarily in a local area, the government said in the press release.

Relaunch stages will also include an evaluation and monitoring period to determine if restrictions should be adjusted up or down.

Triggers that will inform decisions on the lessening or tightening of restrictions include hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy.

Confirmed cases and rates of new infections will be monitored on an ongoing basis to inform proactive responses in localized areas of the province.

Full presentation.

 

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connect Media. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.