Decision on moving province into next step of reopening not yet made, premier says

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updated the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine at pharmacies across the province on Thursday. (Jason Franson/John Woods/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updated the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine at pharmacies across the province on Thursday. (Jason Franson/John Woods/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Premier Jason Kenney says a final decision has not been made about moving the province into the next step of reopening next week.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Kenney said that hospitalizations have dropped below the metric of 300 hospitalizations a week, but said the government will consult with Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, before moving ahead.

The surge of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in Alberta started as families gathered for Thanksgiving and worsened with indoor parties at Halloween.

Even if COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed, people need to be careful, he said.

Regardless of the rules, Kenney said, he will ask Albertans to have a quiet Easter and keep gatherings to their own households.

Pharmacies join vaccine campaign

Speaking in front of an Edmonton drugstore, Kenney announced that 259 pharmacies in 107 communities are now administering COVID-19 vaccine across the province.

Participating pharmacies can administer about 66,000 doses per week, he said.

Kenney said he expects over 500 pharmacies will be participating by next month, reiterating his promise to offer at least one dose to all Albertan adults by June.

Vaccine availability expanded this week as younger groups of Albertans have been added to the list of those eligible for immunization. Albertans can book an appointment at an Alberta Health Services clinic, or at a pharmacy by contacting the pharmacy directly.

Pharmacies are offering shots to any Albertans born in 1956 or earlier, First Nation and Métis people born in 1971 or earlier, and staff and senior residents of licensed supportive living facilities who were not previously eligible.

Availability through AHS clinics is slightly different, offering shots to anyone born in 1954 or earlier as well as First Nations and Métis people born in 1969 or earlier.

The next phases of the vaccine rollout, expected to begin later this spring, will include more age groups, as well as people with underlying health conditions that put them more at risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19, and a range of frontline healthcare staff and other essential workers.