Premier Jason Kenney said there will be an announcement “early next week” on the date for Phase 2 of Alberta’s relaunch strategy.
“Final decisions have not yet been taken,” he said Wednesday. Provincial officials previously said the target date for Phase 2 was June 19 but the exact date has not yet been confirmed.
Alberta’s chief medical officer health said the low COVID-19 numbers after Phase 1 launched were very encouraging.
“With many more businesses open — restaurants, retail, daycares, hair stylists — even with that increased activity, we were still able collectively to maintain a low rate and, in fact, have a decreased number of new infections,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
“So with those really encouraging numbers, my team and I did take forward some considerations for perhaps moving the Stage 2 of relaunch a little bit earlier.
“But again, there’s still some final discussions taking place and so a final announcement would be expected early next week,” she said.
The first stage saw restaurants, pubs, retail stores, hair salons, museums, art galleries, daycares, day camps, summer school and places of worship open their doors with enhanced cleaning and physical distancing protocols and with capacity limitations.
When the phased relaunch approach was announced, the second stage included more personal services (like artificial tanning, aesthetics, cosmetic skin and body treatments, manicures, pedicures), other health services (like acupuncture and massage therapy), movie theatres and libraries (with restrictions), the potential opening of K-12 schools (with restrictions) and larger gatherings being allowed in some situations (number TBD).
Alberta’s COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalization rates are encouraging, the premier said.
“We have successfully flattened the curve, which was always the main goal of our COVID response.
“Here’s the great news: the numbers have continued to move very much in the right direction. We’re down to just over 50 people with COVID in Alberta hospitals, only five or six in intensive care, and I think only one or two using ventilators.
“We flattened the curve and we now have been able to move from 2,800 designated COVID acute care beds to 1,000 designated acute care COVID beds, with only four or five per cent utilization on that.”
“Albertans are doing extraordinarily well in this regard. Yesterday I believe we had only 13 new confirmed infections recorded on about 3,000 tests.”
Still, Kenney stressed the COVID-19 pandemic is not over and Albertans must continue to be smart, safe and follow advice of health officials.
“It’s really up to Albertans to be patient and rigorous about following the hygiene guidelines — frequent washing of hands, physical distancing, all of that — follow the advice of the chief medical officer.”
Kenney said the government has been speaking with Dr. Deena Hinshaw and her team about the relaunch strategy.
“I think there is a high level of confidence that we can move forward with the Phase 2 of relaunch and possibly move forward some of the activities that initially had been planned for Phase 3 into Phase 2. That’s what I can tell you at this point.”
Phase 3 includes fully reopening all businesses and services (with some restrictions), arts and culture festivals, concerts and major sporting events (with restrictions), nightclubs, gyms, pools and recreation centres (with restrictions), industry conferences and there would be no restrictions on non-essential travel. Physical distancing rules would still be in place.
There has been a big push from owners of smaller, boutique-style fitness centres that they be allowed to reopen earlier. Owners argue their gyms have less capacity than larger rec centres and they’re able to control who comes in and out, create two-metre buffer zones and sanitize and clean regularly.
Hinshaw said Wednesday the province has heard a lot of feedback from the recreation, fitness and sport industry regarding the original classification.
“We have been looking at the possibility of moving that particular group — with certain restrictions and limitations of course, as with all places that are currently open — into Stage 2.
“Those things are under discussion and final decisions, we expect those could be communicated early next week,” she said.
“Again, while there’s no final decisions, I have said on previous occasions, that, based on feedback we’ve received and some of the industry protective plans that we’ve received, we are looking at fitness, recreation and sports as possible components of those potentially to be moved up.”
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