Alberta to take first steps to open economy on Saturday, with emphasis on outdoor activities
Province reports 3 more deaths and 190 new cases of COVID-19
The first step in Alberta's plan to reopen its economy will emphasize outdoor activities, with golf courses to open on Saturday followed by shops, bars and restaurants by mid-May.
Premier Jason Kenney detailed his government's plan for a multi-stage relaunch that will depend on the province's continued ability to control the spread of the coronavirus and curb the number of COVID-19 patients who need hospital care.
"It feels like a lot more than 56 days since the first presumptive case of the novel coronavirus was reported here in Alberta on March 5," Kenney said at a news conference on Thursday.
"But together Albertans have responded to the worst global pandemic in over a century with a great deal of common sense, but also making tremendous sacrifices and demonstrating great resilience."
Although the province's relaunch plan stated golf courses would open Monday, Kenney posted on Twitter Thursday evening that Saturday would be the open date.
Parts of the gradual relaunch plan will also begin Monday with the resumption of some non-urgent surgeries and office reopenings for dentists, physiotherapists, speech and respiratory therapists, social workers and dieticians.
Schools will remain closed until the end of the academic year, with instruction continuing online, but Kenney said the province is in discussions with school boards "about allowing some limited reopening on a trial basis" for summer classes and specialized programs.
He also said the government is "looking at whether we can, later in the summer, perhaps regain some of the time that's been lost in this academic year by bringing the schools back earlier."
Any move to get students back into classes before September would be subject to consultation with school boards and the chief medical officer of health, he said.
Golf, boating, camping
While golf courses will be allowed to open on May 2, clubhouses and pro shops will remain closed.
Provincial parks will begin opening today — May 1 — with parking lots and staging areas in parks and on public lands opening again to vehicles. Access to boat launches in select provincial parks will also begin today. Washrooms and garbage pickup in the parks will not be immediately available.
The province will open as many campsites as possible by June 1 with Alberta Parks's online reservation system coming online May 14.
Private and municipal campgrounds can reopen under their own authority.
On Thursday, Alberta reported three more deaths and 190 new cases of COVID-19. One earlier death thought to be due to COVID-19 was not, so the number of deaths in the province is now 89. The province has recorded 5,355 cases.
"Your efforts have succeeded in containing the spread of the virus far below the devastating scale of the outbreak in many other places," Kenney told Albertans. "And well below the capacity of our health-care system to cope."
If efforts to control the spread of the virus continue to be effective so that hospitals and intensive care units can deal with the caseload, the province will move to Stage 1, based on the advice of the chief medical officer of health.
In Stage 1, some businesses and facilities could be allowed to gradually resume operations as early as May 14, including:
- Retail businesses, such as clothing, furniture and bookstores. All vendors at farmers markets will also be able to operate.
- Hairstyling and barbershops.
- Museums and art galleries.
- Daycares and out-of-school care with limits on occupancy.
- Summer camps with limits on occupancy. That could include summer school.
- Cafés and restaurants with no bar service to reopen for public seating at 50 per cent capacity.
As the province slowly reopens, Kenney said Albertans will still face the most severe economic conditions since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
While we continue to see new cases and expect to as long as the virus is around, we've achieved our primary goal of flattening the curve of infections to keep our health-care system from being overwhelmed,.- Alberta Premier Jason Kenney
"While we continue to see new cases and expect to as long as the virus is around, we've achieved our primary goal of flattening the curve of infections to keep our health-care system from being overwhelmed," Kenney said.
"But with today's launch of Alberta's relaunch strategy, we can finally begin to shift our focus from the pain and anxiety of the past few weeks and to start looking, with modest hope and cautious confidence, toward the future."
Post-secondary institutions will continue to deliver courses, but the way those courses are delivered — whether online or in-person — will depend on what restrictions remain in place at each relaunch phase.
The use of masks will be strongly recommended in certain crowded public spaces, such as mass transit.
Under Stage 1, gatherings of more than 15 people will still be prohibited.
Arts and culture festivals, major sporting events and concerts, movie theatres, theatres, swimming pools, recreation centres, arenas, spas, gyms and nightclubs will all remain closed.
If the province continues to meet its goals in controlling the spread of the virus, it would then move to Stage 2.
Under Stage 2, additional businesses and services would be allowed to reopen, with two-metre physical distancing requirements and other public health guidelines in place. That might include:
- 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 some larger gatherings (number of people to be determined).
- Movie theatres and theatres open with restrictions.
- Visitors to patients at health-care facilities will continue to be limited.
In Stage 2, nightclubs, gyms, pools, recreation centres and arenas will remain closed.
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Again, if the case numbers remain under control, at some point the province would move to Stage 3. That would mean fully reopening all businesses and services, with some limited restrictions still in place, and:
- Permitting larger gatherings, 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.
- Lifting restrictions on non-essential travel.
The challenge Albertans face now is to begin returning to a more normal life, Kenney said, though a full return to normal won't come until there is an effective vaccine or treatment.
"I want Albertans to know that our public health officials are constantly reviewing and improving our public health guidelines to keep us safe as we begin to resume economic and personal social activities," Kenney said.
"You can expect to see changes and clarifications to this plan as it unfolds — so, it is not set in stone. It is going to be a plan that develops over time, based on how well we are doing to combat the virus."