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Calgary given the go-ahead to reopen May 25

Last Updated May 22, 2020 at 3:42 pm MDT

Premier Jason Kenney speaks in Calgary on May 22, 2020. (PHOTO: Tom Ross, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Restaurants, bars and hair salons have been given the all-clear to reopen on May 25.

Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement during a press conference in Calgary Friday.

Kenney said these businesses can operate at 50 per cent capacity.

“Please support your neighbourhood restaurants, cafes, and bars. Those are, in many places, a key gathering place in many communities and they need our support now more than ever,” said Kenney.

Calgary and Brooks were originally scheduled to be part of the stage one relaunch with the entire province.

However, just hours before the day, Kenney announced the two communities would have to wait until May 25 due to a large number of active cases.

“Obviously, we regret that some restaurants had purchased inventory two weeks back and were understandably disappointed with the decision that was taken to delay,” he added.

On questions of what sort of supports would be coming for struggling restaurants, Kenney did not have many details apart from promising his cabinet would be having discussions in the coming days and there should be more information soon.

He said the delay was necessary though, as Calgary has seen the vast majority of COVID-19 cases in all of Alberta and Brooks was hard hit by outbreaks at meat packing plants.

“What (Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw) and her team wanted the extra time for was to see whether opening retail here would lead to a measurable surge in new cases.”

Despite the good news, Kenney stressed the province is not out of the woods yet. He referenced the numbers which show 132 deaths from the coronavirus and said you should continue to maintain physical distance and washing your hands.

“That didn’t happen through overbearing lockdowns and quarantines like many other places did. It happened mainly because Albertans have an ethic of personal responsibility and caring for others,” Kenney said.

Moving forward, there will be allowances for day camps and summer schools to start reopening on a limited basis on June 1, then there will be fewer restrictions for places of worship and funerals.

RELATED: Calgary and Brooks to see gradual reopening as part of relaunch strategy

If all goes well and the trends continue, then stage two of the relaunch could proceed as scheduled.

“Our target date is June 19. Our public health officials want to continue keeping an eye on the numbers to make sure we don’t have sudden outbreaks and sudden surges in hospitalizations.”

He said outside of Calgary, there are almost no other cases so it mostly comes down to making progress in the city and current efforts continuing in other areas of the province.

When it came to masks, Kenney said the province is not looking at making them mandatory but followed the advice from Canada’s top doctor Theresa Tam who recommended them in cases where physical distancing is not possible.

Kenney said 40 million non-surgical masks have been ordered with 20 million of those having arrived Thursday night, and a distribution plan will be developed immediately so people who need them can access them.

HOSPITAL CHANGES

Finally, restrictions on non-emergency surgeries and maternity wards are also being lifted while testing is being expanded for workers at long-term care facilities.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said there will be more day surgeries and complex surgeries that require overnight stays, as the government is confident there are enough beds available to handle COVID-19 cases and provisions can be made in the event there is a surge.

Albertans who have been waiting the longest will get priority and patients will be contacted directly when it is time to go under the knife.

“I know the deferral of scheduled services has been hard on patients and families, but it was the right thing to do as part of our overall strategy to protect Albertans from the impact of the pandemic,” Shandro said.

On June 3, maternity services will again be offered at the South Health Campus in Calgary and the High River Hospital, after they were consolidated to other hospitals as a precautionary measure to handle virus cases.

For testing, anyone working at supportive living facilities will be able to get a test if they choose — even if they have no symptoms.

The government hopes this will help them reduce the spread even further as long-term care facilities have been the hardest hit in Calgary and all over the country, with data showing over 60 per cent of deaths in the city have been at these facilities.

Effective May 25, there will be an extension to Alberta’s online self-assessment tool and people with symptoms will be able to book their own testing appointment if they live within 50 kilometres of a testing facility and the tool indicates a test is required.