By Nikki Jamieson Southern Alberta Newspapers
On July 1, the province re-opens. In an announcement last Friday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced 70.2 per cent of eligible Albertans had been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, as of June 17 — meeting the needed threshold requirement for the province to enter Stage 3 of the “Open for Summer Plan” and the removal of all mandatory restrictions.
“On July 1, on Canada Day, Alberta’s public health measures will be lifted and our lives will get back to normal,” said Kenney. “Since this spring, I’ve been saying Albertans should expect a great Alberta summer. Maybe even the best summer ever, given all we’ve been through for the past 16 months. And that’s because I’ve never doubted Albertans. I never doubted we would reach this milestone together, that we would pull together as a province, as a people and get it done in the true Alberta spirit. I want to say we did it, you did it.”
Kenney said active cases have been the lowest they’ve been since October 2020, and have declined by 31 per cent since Stage 1 re-opening started June 1. Hospitalizations have dropped by 45 per cent during that same time period, and ICU admissions have fallen by 53 per cent.
While restrictions will be lifted, the isolation requirements for confirmed cases of COVID-19 and some protective measures in continuing care settings remain, and although the general indoor provincial mask mandate will be lifted, masking may still be required in limited and specific settings.
However, among others, limits on weddings, non-essential travel and restaurants will be lifted, and people can attend events and visit relatives and friends.
In the meantime, Kenney urged people to use “common sense” and continue to follow the public health guidelines still in place, and continue to use “good judgement” and follow the good hygiene practices everyone had taken up during the pandemic.
While the coronavirus will continue to stay around for years to come, the province is moving to a vaccine-based approach, rather than a restriction-based approach, to combat COVID-19.
“Thanks to vaccines, and the millions of Albertans who have been protected by them, we finally have the upper hand on this virus, and can safely open up this province,” said Kenney.
In addition to the re-opening announcement, it was also announced anyone who was vaccinated in May could now schedule their second dose of the vaccine. Previously, those vaccinated in May had to wait until June 28 to schedule their second dose.
“As Dr. (Deena) Hinshaw (chief medical officer of Health) has said, COVID-19 is still here, it’s still a threat, the key to living with it is controlling it through vaccinations, and as the premier alluded to, second doses are critical,” said Tyler Shandro, minister of Health for Alberta. “Thanks to the improved vaccine supply from the federal government, we’re now able to get second doses into the arms even faster.”
Those who were vaccinated in June can book their second dose once four weeks has past.
“That means if you’ve got your first dose on June 1, you can book your second dose on June 29,” said Shandro. “Now going forward, if a first dose is with an mRNA vaccine, you only need to wait four weeks to book your second dose.”
Those who have had the AstraZeneca for their first dose are recommended to wait at least eight weeks for their second dose to ensure maximum protection. Shandro emphasized this was not because of any concern with the vaccine or supply, but because “it actually works better if you give it a little longer between those doses” and advised people to talk with a health care professional with questions about vaccines.
Appointments for those who are getting their first dose of the vaccine will be prioritized. Those who have not yet received their first vaccination can still book an appointment and are urged to do so.
Those who have received a first dose and register at alberta.ca/lottery before 11:59 p.m. June 24, are eligible to win $1 million through Alberta’s “Open for Summer” lottery.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is offering a new, secure web-based portal for Albertans to enter any out-of-province and out-of-country COVID-19 immunizations they’ve received to their health records, and can submit out-of-province or out-of-country immunization records on behalf of themselves or their child/youth under 18 years of age. Records will be reviewed by AHS and verified information will be available within two to three weeks on an individual’s MyHealthRecords account.
To book your COVID-19 vaccine appointment, visit alberta.ca/vaccine.