While case numbers have been dropping since new restrictions were introduced earlier in May, case numbers and hospitalizations remain high, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health warned on Thursday.
“We are gaining momentum, but it is fragile and we cannot afford to take this weekend off from following the rules,” she said.
Hinshaw said she understands Albertans are always keen to get out and enjoy the May long weekend. She’s asking people to consider whether their usual May long activities can be done closer to home.
“Please follow the rules, avoid in-person interactions with people outside your households — especially indoors — and avoid non-essential travel wherever possible.”
So what can Albertans do to celebrate the holiday?
Indoor gatherings continue to be prohibited, but outdoor gatherings are allowed with up to 10 people, depending where you are in the province. Although it’s not a rule, it’s strongly recommended by government and health officials to keep any outdoor gathering to no more than two households.
Restaurants, pubs and cafés remain closed except for takeout and delivery.
Many Albertans use the long weekend to get out and camp for the first time. Hinshaw urged Albertans to not camp with people outside their household.
“That is absolutely problematic and a potential for spread,” she said.
Whether planning to camp or go for a hike, Hinshaw encouraged people to plan in advance and do things like buy groceries close to home from the stores people normally shop at.
Edmonton and Calgary have been able to open their zoos for outdoor exhibits, though timed-entry tickets are required to get in. In Calgary, masks are recommended — they are mandatory in Edmonton.
“The weather is warming up, the sun is shining and summer is just around the corner,” Hinshaw said.
“If we all stay vigilant and do our part just one more time, this might be the last long weekend when such sacrifices are necessary. So make this the safest May long weekend ever.”
On Thursday, Hinshaw confirmed an additional 812 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There were 665 COVID patients in hospital, with 177 of those receiving care in the ICU. There were 17,675 active cases as of Thursday’s update.
Tourist regions ask visitors to stay close to home
While campgrounds are open, Parks Canada is advising people to stay close to home this May long weekend. Officials want visitors who do head to national parks to respect the public health measures.
“Plan ahead to ensure that they are self-sufficient so they have what they need to be able to enjoy the place, whether it’s the clothing, the equipment, the gear, the food,” said Daniella Robeling with Parks Canada.
“If it’s nice weather, we can expect that our popular locations will be busy and that they might need a Plan B.”
Both the mayors of Banff and Canmore are asking people to hold off on visiting the mountain towns this long weekend.
“We are asking Albertans to postpone their travel to the town of Banff at this time,” Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen said Thursday.
“It’s a really difficult message for us to give. Banff exists as a service centre for visitors; tourism is our only economy and so many of our businesses are currently just limping along.”
On May 14, the Town of Banff issued a tweet also asking residents to stay home.