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Coronavirus: What you can and can’t do during Phase 2 in Alberta

Calgary businesses reopen in second stage of province’s relaunch strategy
WATCH: Phase 2 of Alberta's relaunch strategy kicked off on Friday, meaning gyms and other services are allowed to open their doors. Adam MacVicar reports on preparations ahead of the reopening.

Phase 2 of Alberta’s relaunch strategy starts Friday, with many more businesses and services able to reopen with measures in place to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The launch date of Phase 2 was moved up because the government said strong testing data showed low infection rates and low hospitalization and ICU cases.

The next stage in the relaunch plan also allows for larger groups of people to gather in indoor and outdoor settings — while adhering to public health precautions like staying two metres apart from others — and expanding your personal cohort or “bubble.”

Dr. Hinshaw discusses Stage 2 of the Alberta relaunch
Dr. Hinshaw discusses Stage 2 of the Alberta relaunch

Can I go to the gym?

Yes.

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Stage 2 allows indoor recreation, fitness and sports, including gyms, arenas and pools for leisure swimming to reopen.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Gyms, pools, indoor fitness can open June 12 for Stage 2 of Alberta relaunch

However, some facilities have said they won’t be ready to open Friday. Others have indicated they may reopen in phases. Some private fitness centres, yoga and spin studios have been preparing for this stage and say they will open Friday morning.

The City of Edmonton said Thursday that planning work is underway to reopen a select number of city-operated rec centres, with a targeted opening date of early July. The city is still considering whether indoor pools at the rec centres will be open but said outdoor pools will not be open at all this summer.

What has to happen for Edmonton to reopen rec centres?
What has to happen for Edmonton to reopen rec centres?

The City of Calgary said some indoor recreation facilities as well as pools will be opening on Tuesday. The facilities that are opening will do so with many different protocols and precautions, which have to be fully in place before doors open.

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READ MORE: Lethbridge YMCA, city facilities not set to reopen Friday with Stage 2 of Alberta relaunch

There are guidelines posted on the government website to help every sector, including indoor fitness, reopen with enhanced health and safety measures.

“The guidance looks at the difference between lower intensity activities and higher intensity activities and puts some restrictions in place in terms of distancing measures, which would be greater for higher intensity activities,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

“Anyone attending would need to go through some screening to make sure they’re not ill, that they haven’t been in close contact with someone who has COVID[-19 and that] they haven’t returned from international travel in the last 14 days.”
Gyms, libraries and more allowed to open as Alberta’s Stage 2 begins on Friday
Gyms, libraries and more allowed to open as Alberta’s Stage 2 begins on Friday

Can I go to the movies?

Yes, if you can find a theatre that is open June 12.

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Movie theatres and theatres are included in Phase 2 of Alberta’s relaunch plan.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Alberta movie theatres, entertainment attractions not ready for June 12 reopening

However, most companies have said they won’t be ready to welcome guests back Friday and will take more time to prepare for a safe reopening. Many also have to rehire and retrain staff.

Landmark Cinemas said its theatres may not open for another few weeks. Landmark Cinemas CEO Bill Walker said the company is projecting a cautious approach and he doesn’t expect to see any Landmark theatres reopening in Calgary and Edmonton until June 26.

“When we reopen those auditoriums, it will still be reserved seating, but we’re only going to be reserving half of the seats,” Walker said. “There will be no one in front of you, there will be no one behind you and there will be no one to your left or right.

Cineplex’s executive director of communications, Sarah Van Lange, said the company doesn’t have a definitive reopening date just yet. She said Phase 2 is welcome news but Cineplex is still reviewing the details and requirements.

Alberta movie theatres, entertainment venues not ready for Phase 2 reopening on June 12
Alberta movie theatres, entertainment venues not ready for Phase 2 reopening on June 12

Can I take a vacation in B.C.?

Not recommended.

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Non-essential travel outside the province is not approved under Phase 2 and the Alberta website indicates it won’t be lifted until Phase 3 of the relaunch strategy.

READ MORE: Nasty notes left for drivers with Alberta licence in B.C. as COVID-19 continues

However, Premier Jason Kenney said June 9 that travel to virus hot spot areas like Quebec was more of a concern than to B.C. or Saskatchewan.

“We don’t have any travel restrictions,” he said. “I think Northwest Territories still has restrictions on Albertans going north, but I’ve been very happy to work with Premier Horgan on our west side and Premier Moe on the east to keep those borders open.

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“I understand that they’ve had a general guideline asking people from outside the province not to travel there, but there’s no actual barrier. You don’t get blocked or screened when you’re going to British Columbia. And I understand that B.C. will be lifting that very soon.”

Alberta plates spark nasty response in BC border towns
Alberta plates spark nasty response in BC border towns

The B.C. travel website Hello B.C. warns to avoid all non-essential travel.

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“If you’re a B.C. resident, stay close to home and follow the latest health recommendations,” the website reads. “If you’re from outside the province, we invite you to dream now and explore B.C. later.”

Alberta in discussions with other provinces about travelling between provinces
Alberta in discussions with other provinces about travelling between provinces

Can I go camping?

Yes.

Alberta Parks reopened campgrounds on June 1, but only at half capacity. The 50 per cent limit for provincial campgrounds lifts June 12.

“[People] should enjoy the beautiful Alberta summer. They should be able to travel — with observing the guidelines — to get out around the province,” Kenney said June 9.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Alberta’s provincial campgrounds to open at full capacity

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This week, the online reservation system for Alberta Parks campgrounds was updated and more campsites came online in phases.

By July 1, the government said all provincial campsites will be open for reservations. First-come, first-served sites may open sooner.

“We’re not offering group or comfort camping yet, but we’ll continue to assess over the coming weeks,” Alberta Environment and Parks spokesperson John Muir said.

“At this time, reservations are only open to Albertans as out-of-province travel is not recommended and we want to ensure as many Albertans [as possible] can have an opportunity to camp this summer.”
Kenney announces campgrounds will open at full capacity as part of Stage 2
Kenney announces campgrounds will open at full capacity as part of Stage 2

Can my soccer team resume practices and games?

Yes, with restrictions.

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Team sports are included in Stage 2 of Alberta’s relaunch plan. This stage also expands size limits for household and sports cohorts. The sports cohort was expanded to a maximum of 50 people.

READ MORE: Alberta to allow expanded cohorts in Stage 2: How it works and what’s involved

“We recognize people cannot play team sports while maintaining consistent two metres distance at all times,” Hinshaw said. “We also recognize that sports provide mental and physical health benefits.

“This is about risk mitigation in setting out a rule of 50 people per sports team cohort. So that, depending on the nature of the sport and the number of people on a given team, would potentially be up to several teams that could participate in team play together.”

The province has posted health and safety guidelines for team sports organizers on its website.

Dr. Hinshaw discusses cohorts and sports
Dr. Hinshaw discusses cohorts and sports

Can I meet friends for dinner at a restaurant or patio?

Yes, with considerations.

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Hinshaw has always said the risk of COVID-19 transmission is less when people are outside. So, if you can choose a patio, do that.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Alberta restaurants expect staggered start when reopening begins

Are the friends you’re meeting part of your household cohort or personal bubble? If so, you wouldn’t have to consistently maintain two metres between you.

On June 9, Alberta Health expanded the size of so-called household cohorts to 15 people.

“The cohort concept is for groups of people where physical distancing is not always possible,” Hinshaw said. “You created sort of a safety bubble.

“The expansion to 15 for that household cohort concept is, again, a guideline for the number of people within whom if you were interacting without consistently observing that physical distancing rule, that would be able to then, if someone were to get sick or get COVID[-19], quickly contain it.

“You would have a smaller group of people within whom to contact trace if there had been a recent gathering.”

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Coronavirus: Slow return to normal for Calgary restaurateurs
Coronavirus: Slow return to normal for Calgary restaurateurs

Stage 2 also lifts the 50 per cent capacity restriction on restaurants and lounges. As of Friday, there is no cap on capacity for restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars, as long as there is a two-metre distance or appropriate barriers between different groups.

Businesses cannot seat more than six people to one table and should remind diners that “it is recommended that only members of the same household or cohort family be seated together at a table,” the government website explains.

Can I get my nails done?

Yes.

Personal services, including aesthetics, cosmetics skin and body treatments, manicures, pedicures, waxing, facial treatments and artificial tanning, can reopen in Stage 2, with restrictions.

READ MORE: Tattoo shops, aestheticians in Lethbridge optimistic about opening in Phase 2 of relaunch

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The government has posted guidelines online, including that masks should be worn, appointments made ahead of time and spaced out both in terms of times and physical distance. Products and tools should not be shared between work stations, surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected in accordance with the Personal Services Regulation and Standards, equipment should be cleaned or thrown out between clients and the number of people in waiting rooms at the same time should be limited.

“Jetted footbaths used for pedicure can generate aerosols. It is recommended that jetted pedicure tubs not be used at this time,” Alberta Health said.

The province also says businesses should make sure they have “a sufficient supply of masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, hand soap, disinfectants, cleaning materials and sterilization equipment before reopening.”

Stylists, clients willing to break the law for black market haircuts in Alberta
Stylists, clients willing to break the law for black market haircuts in Alberta

Can I get a massage?

Yes.

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Wellness services (such as acupuncture, acupressure, massage therapy, floatation/sensory deprivation, reflexology, reiki, energy healing, etc.) are allowed to reopen under Stage 2.

Alberta Health guidelines for wellness services include businesses having a sufficient supply of masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, hand soap,
disinfectants, cleaning materials and sterilization equipment before reopening.

The government also says a physical barrier (such as a clear acrylic sheet) should be placed between staff and clients when services are provided in a face-to-face manner.

Where barriers are not possible, it is expected that both the client and worker wear masks (non-medical masks at a minimum).

Can I host a family dinner?

It depends.

Hinshaw has reiterated that sharing food is one of the highest risk activities when it comes to possible COVID-19 transmission. Common-touch items, like a serving spoon, for instance, are also concerning.

If you’re planning a family gathering, Hinshaw suggests having it outside if possible and asking everyone to bring their own food and drink. Provide hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.

If the guests are not all part of the same household cohort, also maintain physical distance of two metres.

Family gathering leads to 15 COVID-19 cases in Fraser Health region
Family gathering leads to 15 COVID-19 cases in Fraser Health region

Can I have my wedding?

It depends on the size and if it’s indoor or outdoor.

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Stage 2 expands the size of gatherings allowed, as long as physical distancing is adhered to.

READ MORE: Return of weddings and gatherings too little, too late for some Alberta event planners

For indoor social gatherings, including wedding and funeral receptions and birthday parties, a maximum of 50 people are allowed.

For outdoor events — or indoor seated/audience events — including wedding and funeral ceremonies, a maximum of 100 people are allowed.

The province said it makes decisions based on Alberta’s active cases and trajectory.

“We are just doing our best to adjust our guidance based on the most current levels of risk,” Hinshaw said on June 10.

Return of weddings and gatherings in Alberta a mixed blessing for couples, planners
Return of weddings and gatherings in Alberta a mixed blessing for couples, planners

General takeaways

As more businesses and services reopen, it’s likely Alberta will see more cases of COVID-19. Don’t panic, the premier says.

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“Stay calm. Carry on,” Kenney said June 9.

“We don’t need to panic when there will inevitably be increases in active cases. To the contrary, what we need to do is support each other in using these common-sense guidelines and, you know what? Enjoying life.

“People shouldn’t feel guilty now about going out responsibly with their family to a restaurant. They shouldn’t second-guess going to their local place of worship within the limitations that are in place. They should enjoy the beautiful Alberta summer.”

Just because certain things can open Friday doesn’t mean they have to, Hinshaw reiterated.

“I want to emphasize that no businesses or services are required to open… Reopening should happen only when they are ready.”

Hinshaw continues to stress the importance of good hygiene — frequent handwashing, carrying and using sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available and to avoid touching your face.

Be responsible. Stay two metres apart from people not in your household or cohort. Wear a mask when physical distancing isn’t possible. Stay home if you’re feeling unwell. Get tested.

Alberta opens COVID-19 testing to all residents, symptomatic or not
Alberta opens COVID-19 testing to all residents, symptomatic or not

Support each other, Alberta’s top doctor says, and respect each other’s comfort levels.

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“I know that many Albertans are looking forward to more activities,” Hinshaw said. “I know there are students who want to take their diploma exams, and schools and school boards eager to make that happen. I know many are excited that we are now able to safely reopen recreation centres, libraries and theatres, participate in arts and sports activities and attend some cultural events.

READ MORE: 11 million Canadians could experience ‘high levels of stress’ due to COVID-19: Health Canada

“I also know that many other Albertans are feeling anxious about this reopening.

“It’s important to remember that both responses are natural and valid.

“We are in a time of balance where we need to balance the needs of some Albertans for the reopening and the needs of others for their safety, and we need to hold those together in tension,” Hinshaw said.

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