Alberta has fully reopened as of July 1, and all COVID precautions are suspended. This makes Alberta the first Canadian province to fully reopen. Masks are no longer mandatory in most settings, indoor gatherings are allowed, and there are no capacity limits on indoor or outdoor gatherings.
Businesses are being challenged to juggle the safety of their patrons and staff while remaining profitable, and residents are adapting after over a year of PPE and strict restrictions.
“I’m not happy about the complete removal of restrictions,” says resident Maggie Glasgow. “Since we have kids that can’t be vaccinated, and the Delta & Delta Plus variants seem to be transmissible even by those fully vaccinated—I think it’s too early.”
Nazreena Anwar-Travas says, “I think reopening Alberta is happening a bit too soon. At one point, we were still restricted and now bang—we are all let loose. I have heard of people still contracting the virus after they have been vaccinated, so why is the government so hasty in announcing the reopening? I am yet to heal from the recent COVID crisis in India where I lost a lot of family and friends. I am frightened this quick/hasty reopening might trigger off something that we are totally unprepared for.”
David Plamondon, team guide at Pe Metawe Games, is also wary. “Personally, I think it’s a little bit too early,” he says. “I’d still like to see mask mandates being upheld for at least another month. I think with [the Calgary] Stampede at the end of the month…there’s a lot of potential for there to be another big spread, and with all the uncertainty of the Delta variant, I just don’t see why we’re rushing to reopen.”
Pe Metawe Games continues to practice COVID precautions to keep customers safe. “We’re going to be insisting that customers and any visitors to our business continue to wear masks. All of our staff have voluntarily decided that they would prefer to continue to wear masks.” Their private gaming room is available, but the public gaming space will remain closed until August at the earliest.
Delphine Romaire, co-owner of Elite Dance Studio, is also concerned. “One of the most stressful times through the whole COVID restrictions for our business has actually been the reopening, because everything has been lifted so quickly and people didn’t really have a chance to transition,” she says. “We would have preferred a slower transition as far as businesses are concerned, to help us navigate [the challenges] for our staff.”
Romaire and her staff continue to implement restrictions because most of their clients are under 12 and have not been vaccinated. Masks are still required when entering, exiting, and moving around the studio, and students are spaced three metres apart.
“Before, we had such strict guidelines,” says Romaire, explaining that business owners followed those or they didn’t operate. Romaire notes that it’s tougher to enforce health precautions without the bylaws.
But the reopening also let dance students jump for joy: “The restrictions lifted just in time for us to hold… an outdoor recital,” Romaire says, which was the perfect way to end a difficult year. “Everybody missed seeing the kids perform.” Now competitions, festivals, and shows are all able to operate. “We’re very excited and it just gives us something to look forward to.”
As of July 7, there are 745 active COVID cases in Alberta and 137 of those are in Edmonton.
Premier Jason Kenney is confident that lifting the restrictions will allow businesses to thrive once again and return life to normal. “We have crushed COVID-19 and with cases plummeting and vaccine uptake climbing, we are Open for Summer,” says Kenney in a press release on the Government of Alberta’s website.
Over 73 per cent of Albertans over the age of 12 have been vaccinated with at least one dose. That works out to 4,673,582 doses of vaccine administered. And 50.7 per cent of Albertans over 12 years of age have been fully vaccinated.
There is still plenty of apprehension and uncertainty, but it’s getting easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel.