Though Alberta is still battling a third wave of COVID-19, the premier is hinting there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
On Monday, Jason Kenney said the government is working on a potential summer reopening plan that will be discussed at a meeting of the emergency management cabinet committee later this week and again next week.
“Albertans have stepped up to the plate in the last couple of weeks in a big way. Thanks to the efforts and sacrifices made by millions of Albertans, we now see (COVID-19) case numbers coming down quickly in almost all parts of the province,” Kenney said.
“We do expect to see hospitalizations peak in the next week or two because of the time lag effect between infection and hospitalizations, but with declining COVID-19 numbers, we can look forward to easing restrictions in the fairly near future.”
Kenney said Albertans can “stay tuned” and they will be outlining that plan eventually.
“It’ll be a careful plan that will get us to a great Alberta summer as long as Albertans continue the huge momentum to get vaccinated.”
He said while the percentage of Albertans who have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will play a “large role” in that plan, it won’t be based strictly on those numbers.
“We will certainly be tying reopening in large part to the percentage of the population that gets vaccinated. We’ll also be looking at hospitalizations at least early in the reopening plan.”
“Last week, the Calgary Stampede announced that they plan to host a scaled-back Stampede this year. That’s great news. But how big a Stampede it will be, how many of us can visit and celebrate the greatest outdoor show on earth — all of that depends on how many of us stick it to COVID-19 by getting a vaccine,” Kenney said.
“So please do your part by following the public health measures for just a little while longer and getting vaccinated as soon as you can, so that all of us can get back to normal and enjoy a truly great Alberta summer.”
“We need that skeptical — that that vaccine-cautious share of the population — to realize that their ticket to freedom and their way back to normal lives through getting vaccinated.”
As of Tuesday, 50 per cent of Albertans over the age of 12 had been given at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, however Dr. Deena Hinshaw said a reopening framework was still being considered carefully so that easing restrictions didn’t cause another surge in cases.
“There’s always the potential if opening happens too quickly, before there’s sufficient protection and there’s high transmission going on that it could cause a surge,” Hinshaw said.
“But as long as we are able to continue to have our numbers dropping and immunization rates rising, we will reach a point where those two numbers will be able to be protective of the community. And again, those are the types of conversations that will be happening over the next week as decisions are made about what that final framework looks like.”
Kenney said at some point in June, it’s expected that 70 per cent of eligible Albertans will be vaccinated with at least one dose, and “if so, that that bodes very well for a broad reopening later this summer.”
Kenney said the province will not be creating different rules for people who have been vaccinated.
“It creates a huge amount of administrative and enforcement complexity,” he said. “We’d rather just focus everybody — team effort, we’re all in it together — everybody who can please get vaccinated, and if we do that we think within a matter of weeks we can remove public health restrictions.”
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