Alberta's Stage 1 reopening offers a tiny taste of the summer ahead

The Stage 1 measures in effect as of June 1 look a lot like the ones in place prior to May 9 when the province enacted a swath of public health restrictions to stave off a surge of third-wave COVID-19 cases.

Haircuts, patios and twice as many folk at your (safely distanced) backyard gathering

The patio at Calgary's Side Street Pub and Grill. Restaurants and pubs can reopen their patios, with restrictions, when Stage 1 of Alberta's reopening kicks in on June 1. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

In the multi-staged journey toward Alberta's summer of 2021, the public health restrictions being relaxed on Tuesday are best described as a taste of what's to come.

Indeed, the Stage 1 measures in effect as of June 1 look a lot like the ones in place prior to May 9 at 11:59 p.m. when the province enacted a swath of public health restrictions to stave off a surge of third-wave COVID-19 cases.

State of the stats

On May 8, the number of active COVID-19 cases was more than triple the 7,646 reported on Monday. But that reduction in active cases, while remarkable, isn't a key consideration in Alberta's reopening plan.

Instead, each of the plan's three stages are based on two statistics: vaccination rates and hospitalization numbers.

Stage 1 requires 50 per cent of the 3.8 million eligible Albertans — that is, those aged 12 and up — to have received at least one dose of vaccine. As well, there must be fewer than 800 people being treated in hospital for COVID-19.

Currently, the vaccination rate is 62 per cent and there are 439 people in hospital.

Fire up the patio lanterns

The good news — and given the weather, we'll call it great news — is that Alberta's bars and restaurants can unfurl their patio umbrellas.

The bad news, if you're a glass-half-empty sort, is that seating arrangements must have COVID-19 safety in mind: a maximum of four per table, and all must either live together or be two close contacts of someone who lives alone.

Hair today (or whenever you can fit me in)

On the weekend of May 8 and 9, salons and barbershops were packed with clients trying to get a new 'do before personal and wellness services were closed down.

As of Tuesday, hair salons along with tattoo parlours, tanning salons and nail salons can reopen by appointment only. 

The even greater outdoors

Similar to patio rules, indoor socializing with folks from other households is still off-limits.

But you are allowed to enjoy safe, distanced outdoor visits in groups of up to 10 people — which doubles the fun from the five-person limit.

As well, outdoor physical, recreation and performance activities can take place with up to 10 safely distance people, a measure that puts the fore(some) back in golf. 

Retail and religion

The new rules are a slight change for retail outlets, which can increase the number of shoppers to 15 per cent of fire code capacity, up from the 10 per cent allowed through most of May. 

Churches and other places of worship, meanwhile, saw new capacity limits go into effect on Friday. These organizations can now accommodate 15 per cent capacity, an increase from the 15-person maximum brought in on May 9.

Weddings and funerals

The provincial guidelines around weddings and funerals see almost no change in Stage 1.

Funerals are allowed up to 20 people as guests, excluding officiants and facility staff, which is identical to what was allowed in areas with low case counts. It is a concession, though, in places with higher case counts where only 10 guests were allowed.

Wedding ceremonies remain unchanged, with a limit of 10 people including the officiant and witnesses.

Receptions continue to be disallowed for both weddings or funerals.

What's next

Stage 2 of Alberta's reopening will require more than 60 per cent of eligible Albertans to be vaccinated as well as fewer than 500 people in hospital. Because both of those measures were met late last week, the government has said Stage 2 could be initiated as early as June 10.


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