Calgary businesses remain restricted but those outside city limits can open
Alberta government announced a staggered regional approach to reopening
Calgary's restaurants, hairstylists and barbers might be closed, but those snuggled up right against the city's borders are not.
The restrictions put in place by the Alberta government on Wednesday afternoon, preventing Calgary and Brooks from reopening on the same timeline as the rest of the province, mean Calgarians can take a short drive to access services.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, speaking at a council committee meeting on Thursday morning, asked Calgarians not to flock to Balzac, Chestermere or other areas to get a fix of normalcy and swamp those locations.
"Non-essential travel is still not being recommended by Dr. Hinshaw or by the province," he said, noting CrossIron Mills is the closest mall to his home in northeast Calgary.
Higher rates of infection
Calgary has seen higher rates of infection than most regions of the province, with rates well above those in Edmonton. Brooks has also been hit hard, largely as a result of infections tied to the local meat-packing plant.
On Wednesday, the province reported 26 new COVID-19 cases in the Calgary zone, seven in the south zone and one in the Edmonton zone.
High River, just south of Calgary, was home to one of the largest outbreaks in North America, tied to the Cargill meat-processing plant, but has been given the green light to reopen.
"A lot of this can go very sideways, very quickly, if everybody in Calgary decides to go and have lunch or dinner, or to the pub, in the areas that are open, because then the virus travels with the people," said Craig Jenne, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Calgary.
Jenne said that as restrictions ease, it's important people remember that their immunity to COVID-19 is no greater than it was back in February.
Nenshi had warned against a regional approach to reopening before the province's announcement Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours before some businesses planned to open their doors.
Some retailers, museums and galleries are allowed to reopen in Calgary.
Restaurateurs in the city who had ordered stock and made plans to reopen on Thursday felt blindsided by the announcement.
Nenshi said he's sympathetic to those who planned to reopen and wishes the province had given more notice. He says the city found out about the decision at about the same time as everyone else.
"One thing that I really want to reach out to people and say is, if you have the means to do it, eat a lot this weekend, order in," said Nenshi.
Up to Calgarians
Calgary Emergency Management Agency chief Tom Sampson said part of him is frustrated the city can't open, but he echoed Nenshi in saying it was the right decision.
He said Calgarians need to do better to reduce the number of cases in the city.
"We have the control, you and I," he said, stressing Calgary will reopen in 10 days time only if the spread is contained.
Sampson also said community standards officers will be out monitoring businesses to ensure they're complying with health orders, and bylaw officers will be out in force over the long weekend.
"We've spent a lot of time talking to folks about the fact that they need to maintain social distance. Do not be surprised if our officers give you a ticket for not social distancing," he said.
Sampson also said playgrounds in Calgary would remain closed, despite opening in the rest of the province.