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Province initiates Phase 2 relaunch

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Not all local amenities and organizations are yet ready to resume activity as Alberta eases COVID-19 measures earlier than expected June 12

Alberta will be moving into phase two of the provincial relaunch strategy on June 12 as numbers of active COVID-19 cases continue to drop.

Premier Jason Kenney stated on June 9 that testing data shows active cases in Alberta are lower than expected, prompting initiation of Stage 2 a week earlier than expected.

“Our data tells us our active cases are low, hospitalizations are trending downward and people are taking action to protect those most vulnerable and prevent the spread of the virus,” Kenney said.

At the time of his announcement, 44 individuals were hospitalized across Alberta, six were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), and 355 cases of COVID-19 were active.

Information released by the province stated these numbers showed a decrease of almost 70 per cent in active cases since May 14 when the province began Phase 1 of the Alberta Relaunch Strategy. 

Alberta has performed more COVID-19 tests per capita than most other jurisdictions in the world, Kenney added.

Stage 2 will allow the reopening of K-12 schools for requested diploma exams and summer school, libraries, more surgeries, wellness services, personal services, indoor recreation, fitness, and sports, movie theatres and theatres, community halls, team sports, pools for leisure swimming, VLTs in restaurants and bars, casinos and bingo halls, and instrumental concerts with physical distancing restrictions still in place.

This doesn’t mean that regular in-school classes for kindergarten to Grade 12 resume until September 2020.

From the outset of the school closures, Grade 12 students were given the opportunity to request to write a given diploma exam, explained Glen Allen, Principal of Harry Collinge High School.

Unless specifically requested, the exams were, and remain, cancelled for all other students, he said.

The Hinton Municipal Library will not be opening to the public this Friday, stated Pamela Stewart, library services assistant manager at the Hinton Municipal Library.

At the last library board meeting on June 1, the decision was made to go with curbside delivery of the holds that are currently being held at the library and to reopen the drop box. 

Once the backlog of holds material has been dealt with, Library staff will be able to assist patrons by email, phone or the new Chat Feature online to assist with finding and signing out material. No holds can be placed with other libraries at this time, Stewart added.

“The library board will decide at their next meeting on June 22 on when the library will reopen to the public and what that will look like at that time with social distancing measures in place,” Stewart said.

Emily Olsen, interim CAO of the Town of Hinton, mentioned during the standing committee meeting on June 9 that the Town is not prepared to open the recreation facility to the public by June 12 and that adequate time is needed to prepare the facility.

Hinton Movies is anticipating re-opening in early September, said Ann Stewart on behalf of the Hinton Movies Board.

“For us there is no simple answer to when we’ll re-open because it’s based on numerous factors outside of our control,” Stewart explained.

The Performing Arts Theater of Hinton (PATH) is rented daily by all users and Hinton Movies is one of those users. The building is owned by the Town and managed by a non-profit group called The Home of Fine Arts (ASH), which will decide together when to re-open.

Stewart added that before Hinton Movies can open they need to be sure there is new content to show. Distributors will want at least 80 per cent of the North American/World theaters open and able to fill at least 75 per cent of these seats before they move new movies up on the schedule, Stewart explained.

Another factor is whether audiences in Hinton will come back in big enough numbers to allow the organization to at least break-even.

“Like many businesses in our town and province, re-opening and continuing to operate will be totally dependent on having an audience walk through the doors, especially our first month,” Stewart said.

Vocal concerts, major festivals, large conferences, trade shows, nightclubs, amusement parks, hookah lounges, major sporting events and tournaments are still not permitted to re-open.

Non-essential travel outside the province will not be recommended until Stage 3 of the relaunch strategy. The limit on gatherings indoors is now raised to a maximum of 50 people, while outdoor gatherings and indoor seated or audience events are capped at 100 people.

Caps on people gathering for worship, in restaurants, cafes, lounges, and bars, casinos and bingo halls has been removed while physical distancing measures are in place.

The 50 per cent capacity limit for provincial campgrounds is also being lifted and the online reservation system will be updated as sites will come online in phases.  By July 1, all camping sites will be open for reservations, stated the province. 

More flexibility is also given to ‘cohort’ groups, which are small groups of people whose members do not always keep two metres apart.

Households can increase its close interactions with other households to a maximum of 15 people, performers can have a cohort of up to 50 people, sports teams can play in region-only cohorts of up to 50 players, and people could be part of both a sports/performing and household cohort.

A new interactive map will help Albertans understand the level of risk in their community and learn about any enhanced health measures at the local level, stated the province.

Additional information on what they need to do to stay safe and protected will also be provided. Currently, no communities in Alberta need locally targeted enhanced measures.

“Stay home if you are sick. Stay two metres apart and wear a non-medical mask if you can’t. Consider downloading the ABTraceTogether app, and wash your hands often,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health reminded Albertans on June 9.

Relaunch stages include an evaluation and monitoring period to determine if restrictions should be adjusted, triggers for adjustments include the number of active cases, hospitalizations and ICU occupancy.