Unlikely all of Alberta will reopen on same schedule, premier says
Announcement about timing of Phase 1 of relaunch likely to come on Tuesday
When Alberta enters Phase 1 of its relaunch, it's likely that not all parts of the province will reopen on the same schedule, the premier says.
The impact of COVID-19 has not been felt equally across regions or even from community to community, Kenney said Thursday at a news conference.
The emergency management committee of cabinet will meet on Monday to make decisions about precise timelines for Phase 1 of the relaunch, he said, and will do so with regional statistics in mind and with advice from the chief medical officer of health and her team.
"We will be looking through a local lens at how quickly we reopen aspects of the economy to ensure that we are doing it very prudently," Kenney said. "I would say it's obviously unlikely that we would move forward at the same speed in places like High [River] and Brooks as most of the province."
He said an announcement about the timing will likely be made on Tuesday.
Alberta reported two more COVID-19 deaths on Thursday and 54 new cases of the disease. That brings the total number of deaths in the province to 114 and the total number of cases to 6,017.
The number of people listed as recovered was 3,809, well above the number of active cases, 2,094.
A regional breakdown of cases as of Thursday shows the impact of COVID-19 in different parts of the province.
- Calgary zone: 4,044
- South zone: 1,124
- Edmonton zone: 505
- North zone: 226
- Central zone: 94
- Unknown: 24
Kenney said the Peace River Country, for example, has seen few infections though the town of McLennan has seen a significant outbreak linked to a continuing care facility there.
"Similarly, we obviously are very concerned about the outbreaks in Brooks and High River," he said.
Since Alberta Health Services zones were set up for administrative purposes, cabinet will be looking at local circumstances rather than entire regions, he said.
Under the current relaunch plan, May 14 is the earliest date that some restrictions may be lifted, allowing for the reopening of:
- Some retail businesses, such as clothing, furniture and book stores.
- Daycares and out-of-school care programs, with occupancy limits.
- All farmers' market vendors.
- Some personal services, such as hair salons and barber shops.
- Cafés, restaurants, pubs and bars, with occupancy limits and other restrictions.
- Museums and art galleries.
- Some additional outdoor recreation.
- Summer camps, with occupancy limits.
Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday the public will have to remain vigilant during the staged relaunch.
"Our messaging really is shifting from the 'stay home' that we've been focusing on for the past few months to more of a 'stay safe' message," she said.
"I guess the message we're sending to people is that there are some additional opportunities for people to get services, some additional opportunities for recreation, and it's OK to go out, cautiously."
Hinshaw said she will still recommend that older people, particularly those over 75, and those with chronic medical conditions, to remain very cautious and carefully consider what places they want go to.
In the weeks to come, she said, as people adjust to the new normal, they will have to continue to practise what they've learned about physical distancing, about hand washing, about not touching their faces, and about staying home if they're sick.
"And I just want to emphasize that last point," she said. "If you are feeling ill in any way — sore throat, runny nose, fever, achy, cough — you should absolutely not be going out until you're feeling well, and ideally, to be going online or calling 811 to arrange for testing so that we can make sure we understand exactly what's happening with COVID across the province."