Over the weekend, Albertans saw some changes to provincial restrictions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the hope of slowly reopening the province’s economy, the government announced its initial relaunch strategy on Thursday, which included the opening of golf courses, provincial parks and some non-essential businesses.
But these changes don’t necessarily mean that life will return to normal for Albertans just yet. As the phased relaunch slowly rolls out, here’s a look at what people can and cannot do across the province amid the pandemic.
Can I plan a get together with friends and family?
In short, yes, as long as people are complying with physical distancing regulations and mass gathering restrictions. However, on Friday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, stated the while the rules surrounding gatherings are relaxing, visiting family inside their homes can still be risky.
Instead, Hinshaw said that people could lower the risk of transmission by arranging to meet outdoors.
“It is currently allowable that up to 15 people gather as long as two metres of distance can be maintained,” Hinshaw said.
“At this time certainly, as we’re easing cautiously back into interactions, it may be a reduced risk to arrange for outdoor gatherings.”
What about visiting my grandparents?
It’s a family decision, Hinshaw said on Friday. She noted that while it’s acceptable for residents to visit their family members in groups of less than 15 people, she added that older populations should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
“People can now look at that gathering rule and consider consciously making plans to visit loved ones,” she said.
“I think that decision of whether children can visit grandparents is really an individual family decision.”
Can I have a picnic with friends?
Not if the picnic entails sharing products. While the risk of transmission is lower outdoors, Hinshaw recommended that people should not share food and drink with anyone outside their household.
“It would be my recommendation to not share food or drink in those gatherings, as that seems to be a risk factor for potential transmission.”
Craig Jenne, an associate professor with the University of Calgary’s department of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases, added that while meeting with friends and family is a welcome change to regulations, people need to stay vigilant.
“In social gatherings, we can maintain a physical distance but we can often forget the little things,” Jenne said.
“As we begin to ease restrictions, the public has to keep in mind that this is not a green light to go back to normal.”
Can I play sports with friends?
Organized sports remain off-limits to Albertans due to the inability to adhere to social distancing regulations and avoid commonly-touched surfaces (like a ball or Frisbee, for instance).
However, on Friday, the City of Calgary announced that the playing of some outdoor sports would be allowed, including singles tennis, singles badminton and singles pickleball — with slight modifications that ensure players don’t touch the same ball or device during the game.
Playgrounds across the province remain closed.
Can I exercise with friends?
As long as social distancing regulations are being followed.
Parks and golf courses have now been given the green-light to open across the province, allowing people to utilize Alberta’s green spaces, however, Jenne said residents should do so with caution.
“We should still avoid doing things that aren’t critical to our daily lives,” he said.
“You have to keep in mind that as places are more popular, there’s a risk of infection. So just because things are available, that doesn’t mean that everyone should go at the same time.”
Jenne added that while regulations may be relaxing across the province, it’s vital that Albertans continue to follow public health restrictions in the coming weeks just as strictly as they have in the past.
“The reality is that nothing has really changed — we are no more immune — so the same physical distancing that has helped flatten the curve is vital to maintain.”
“We can’t confuse relaxing some requirements with the lack of threat in the community.”