EDITOR’S NOTE: A government news release said golf courses would be allowed to open on Monday but a government spokesperson later clarified that golf courses could open on Saturday. This story has been updated to reflect the new information.
The mayors of Alberta’s two largest cities reacted swiftly and positively after Premier Jason Kenney announced a detailed plan to restart the province’s economy amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday.
“While we remain in the response phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to see the province’s plans for relaunch,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said in a news release.
“As public health and economic restrictions are gradually relaxed, we will carefully assess our own approach for Edmonton’s relaunch.”
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also said he was “pleased that we have plans in place.”
“There’s going to have to be a nice balance of opening things but also personal responsibility,” he told reporters late Thursday afternoon.
“I believe the premier talked a little bit about face coverings today and how we each need to take individual responsibility, that’s important.”
Kenney announced that some changes are coming as early as Saturday as the province will allow golf courses to open as long as their pro shops and clubhouses stay closed. On Monday, non-emergency surgeries can resume and dentists, social workers and physiotherapists can go back to work.
But the first significant date for the first stage of reopening some businesses is tentatively set for May 14.
“While the relaunch plan gives us hope for the future, it’s important to remember that this transition won’t be linear and could last for months,” said Adam Laughlin, Edmonton’s interim city manager.
“We expect to be flexible and adaptive as we refine our approach to ensure public safety.”
The City of Edmonton said with the Alberta government announcing its relaunch plan, it will now be reviewing its own response to the pandemic “to ensure that Edmonton continues to strike the right balance between public safety and civic life.”
On Thursday, Edmonton extended its local state of emergency over the novel coronavirus for another week. The city will re-evaluate that once more information becomes available from the province before the next emergency advisory committee meeting on May 7.
Before Kenney announced his relaunch strategy, Nenshi said he believes the response to the pandemic needs to be constantly reassessed.
“My trepidation’s around the fact that we’re not out of this yet,” he said. “You know, we just yesterday had I believe the highest number of new cases in Calgary since the beginning of this.
“We have to understand that it’s the right thing to do to plan. It’s the right thing to do to say, ‘OK, what happens next week? What happens the week after? What happens next month? What happens in September?'”
“The other thing I need to say is remember that faucet can be closed,” he added. “So if we open that faucet and the numbers look bad, I am absolutely prepared to close it again.”
Kenney emphasized Thursday that his relaunch plan hinges on Albertans continuing to be vigilant about following public health orders and recommendations.