Alberta's Stage 3 timeline unclear as demand for first dose diminishes: Kenney

As Alberta moves into Stage 2 of its 'Open for Summer' plan on June 10, the timeline for Stage 3 remains unclear.

Stage 3 requires at least 70 per cent of eligible Albertans receiving their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Two weeks after that benchmark is met, the province will enter the next stage of reopening.

As of Tuesday, approximately 67 per cent of eligible Albertans have received at least one dose.

Premier Jason Kenney said Monday that the province is not currently on track to meet the Stage 3 vaccine threshold.

"We are seeing diminishing demand for the first dose of the vaccines."

Kenney says there are about 100,000 booked appointments for a first dose over the next week, which would fall short of the initial plans to progress to the third stage by late June or early July. He says 115,000 more Albertans need to get their vaccine in order to move ahead.

"We're returning to that critical point right now where every additional person decides to get the first dose is going to be able to accelerate the full openness of Alberta."

Stage 3 would lift nearly all restrictions including the ban on indoor social gatherings. Isolation requirements for people who have contracted the virus would still be in place, along with protective measures in continuing care settings.

"If you've been holding back, for one reason or another now is the time, over the next week to get the jab, so that we can move forward more quickly with the full 'Open for Summer' plan."

UNCERTAINTY CHALLENGING

The uncertainty has been challenging for the event industry.

“We have gone through many reiterations of promises of staged openings, promises of relaunch plans only to be told that we’re going back in time, there will be more lockdowns or further restrictions,” said Caitlin McElhone, the Edmonton representative for the Alberta Live Events Coalition.

The group formed when the pandemic hit to be a voice for the industry.

McElhone, who is an event planner and owner of CM Events said it usually takes eight to 10 months, even longer to coordinate larger scale functions.

“It’s really hard for event professionals to move forward because there’s so much money and so many resources that go into just the planning phases of an event it’s a huge risk to move forward with a lot of these big festivals and concerts that are planned, or hope to be planned in some capacity for the summer.”

The coalition said many annual events pulled the plug and cancelled for the summer.

The impact has been devastating for the approximately 40,000 people who work in the industry in Alberta.

“The live events industry just here in Alberta alone is $4.4 billion a year of economic revenue that is off the table right now.”

“One in three people travel because of an event, because of a celebration or a conference or a meeting or a festival or a concert that they’re going to and so it really does generate so much of how our economy works and without events there is no recovery.”

McElhone said the coalition has been working with the province and Alberta Health on getting the industry open safely over the past year and a half, but unfortunately most events have been on pause.

“Not all events are the same you know, planning a business meeting and planning a big outdoor festival for tens of thousands of people are quite different. And there was an opportunity to introduce smaller scale events in different capacities along the way that unfortunately we haven’t been able to do,” said McElhone.