Alberta moves to Stage 3 of reopening plan on Canada Day

Alberta will move to the third stage of its reopening plan on July 1, meaning nearly all health measures will be lifted, Premier Jason Kenney announced Friday.

Indoor social gatherings will once again be allowed and there will be no limit on the size of outdoor events. Restaurants, bars and retail outlets will once again be able to run at full capacity. The provincial mask mandate will also be lifted but masks will still be required in some settings, including while on public transit and while inside city-owned buildings.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will still have to quarantine.

"This is an important milestone and a great achievement, but we will not stop here," said Kenney

"We will keep administering first and second doses as quickly as possible so we’re not just open for summer, but open for good."

The province says 70.2 per cent of eligible Albertans — those age 12 and up — have now received a first dose and more than 25 per cent have received a second dose.

The province is also speeding up the timeline for when Albertans can get a second dose and everyone age 12 and up is now eligible.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says at least eight weeks should pass between first and second doses for those receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. At least four weeks should pass between shots for those getting an mRNA vaccine, like Pfizer or Moderna. Albertans will have a choice on which vaccine they receive for a second dose.

Vaccines can be booked through the province's website www.alberta.ca/vaccine or through a participating pharmacy.

There are currently 2,471 active cases in Alberta, which is the lowest number since the beginning of October, said Kenney, and marks a 61 per cent drop since the start of Stage 1 of reopening earlier this year. The number of hospitalizations has fallen 45 per cent since the start of Stage 1, said Kenney, and the number of people in ICU has dropped 53 per cent.

Reaching the 70 per cent vaccination milestone means the deadline for the $1 million Open For Summer Lottery will be 11:59 p.m. on June 24.  Everyone age 18 and  older can register at www.alberta.ca/lottery and you must have received a vaccination to claim a prize.

There will be two more $1 million draws and 40 travel prizes offered by WestJet and Air Canada in August and September as part of the effort to encourage Albertans to get immunized. Kenney has said entry in those draws will be tied to second doses of vaccinations.

'CHOMPING AT THE BIT'

Among the Albertans looking forward to looser restrictions is Gary Paukert.

He's part of the Calgary Men's Senior Slow Pitch League and says they can't wait to get back on the field.

"Chomping at the bit," he said. "Last year was not a normal year, we didn't play tournaments, had to play in small cohorts so (we) didn't have our regular group."

"We are really excited we are starting up the first week of July here."

While outdoor sports were allowed during stage to social distancing was still required - that's no longer the case

Paukert says he and his teammates will still be careful - everyone in the league is at least 55 years old and some players are in their 90's, making them higher risk for COVID-19.
But Paukert says not playing ball comes with its own set of risks.

 "We are a 300 person league," he said.  "I think there are a lot of guys in the league that were very isolated over winter."

"They are so happy to be out and see the guys they haven't seen in a year or more," he added. "We love this sport and we have missed it so much, to get out here, the green grass, hitting home runs, getting to see all our buds and play softball - this is what we live for in the summer so it's great to have it back."

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