With 60 per cent of eligible Albertans (12 years and older) having received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and hospitalizations well below 500 and dropping, it appears the pandemic’s third wave has been tamed.
Step 2 of Alberta’s reopening plan takes effect June 10 with further easing of provincial health measures.
Physical distancing and indoor mask use are still required, and indoor social gatherings remain prohibited.
One of the biggest changes local residents will be excited for is the return of indoor recreation facilities, such as swimming pools, museums, libraries and theatres. Each will be permitted to welcome up to one-third of its fire-code occupancy.
The Pincher Creek swimming pool is set to open June 14.
“Everyone is very excited to have some normalcy, and we know people are missing the pool and the programs,” says Blake Edwards, co-ordinator of aquatic services.
Masks will be required in the facility, but not on the pool deck or in the water. The hot tub and water slide will be open, and family swims, open swims, and aquafit will resume. Swimming lessons won’t start until a little later this summer.
Currently, no rentals for mixed households (such as birthday parties) are permitted, though individual households can pay $65 for a one-hour rental. Normal rental conditions, along with the regular $135 cost, are set to return when all restrictions are lifted in Step 3.
Once available, a schedule can be found online at www.PincherCreek.ca/swim.
The Pass Community Pool will have its grand opening June 10.
Public swim, lane swim, aquafit and aqua yoga programs will go ahead with limited numbers: 30 people for public swim, 10 for lane swim, 10 for aquafit and 10 for aqua yoga. Pass Piranhas swim club has started and will run through the summer.
Patrons are encouraged to change at home and limit personal belongings they bring on deck as lockers will not be provided for the season. Sharable toys will not be allowed during public swims.
The pool schedule is available online at passpool.ca/schedule.
Pincher Creek’s sole movie theatre has borne the brunt of public health orders since shutting down in March 2020. Step 2 of the reopening plan finally has the theatre preparing to open its doors July 9, though owner Edith Becker hopes to welcome moviegoers July 2.
“I’m pleased and excited to offer entertainment to the community,” she says. “A lot of people really missed it.”
The opening titles Fox Theatre is planning to show are Fast and Furious 9 and Marvel’s Black Widow.
Crowsnest Community Library and Pincher Creek Municipal Library are both set to open June 10.
Masks, hand sanitizing and distancing will still be required and both libraries will continue to quarantine returned books.
The Crowsnest library has planned outside Story Walks for the summer; no indoor programming is planned. Programs for the Pincher Creek library are still being planned and will most likely occur outside.
Gyms and other indoor fitness facilities can also open for solo and drop-in activities with three-metre distancing between participants. Fitness classes may resume with three-metre distancing; masks will be mandatory and cardio exercises are not allowed.
SGB Fitbodies In Pincher Creek will reopen June 15.
“I am relieved to finally feel like we are moving forward,” says owner Sheryl Baker. “I am trying to think positive that things will continue to move forward. It’s been very difficult and very hard on my business but I am optimistic that things will turn around.”
SGB’s smoothie bar hours will also increase starting July 6, with the hours of operation being 8 a.m. to 4 p.m, Tuesday to Thursday.
Community Fitness Connection in Blairmore will open June 10. All memberships that were active as of April 7 will be credited for days lost.
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek will open first thing on June 10 but will remain closed on weekends until July.
The museum is working on details for summer events, though its popular Canada Day celebration will most likely be postponed until August. KBPV is also excited to open Colpman’s Drugstore as a new building in August.
Heritage Acres will welcome back visitors June 16, in conjunction with Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and the Remington Carriage Museum in Cardston.
The extra time, says executive director Jim Peace, will help the museum comply with recommendations from Alberta Health Services.
“I think it’s a good day,” Jim says.
Heritage Acres has a number of new displays, including a working blacksmith shop, a sewing display with machines dating back to the 1800s, and a collection of Canadian bicycles manufactured prior to 1960.
Although the annual show and tractor pull at the end of July is not anticipated to run this year, Jim says the museum will shift to smaller pop-up events every Saturday, along with maintaining the community Victory Garden, which was planted last month.
Crowsnest Museum is aiming to open June 25 in order to train summer staff and clarify rules and restrictions from the province.
Bellevue Underground Mine will be open for tours starting June 11. Visitors are asked to pre-book their tours online. For the time being, bookings will be limited to nine participants, and individuals from different households will be required to physically distance.
Masking will be mandatory, and setup with helmets and lamps will happen outside.
Tour bookings and additional information can be found online at bellevuemine.com.
Other measures eased
The move to Step 2 also bumps up outdoor gatherings and wedding attendance to 20 people; wedding and funeral receptions will be permitted outdoors only.
A few other notable changes include restaurants being able to seat tables with up to six people, indoors or outdoors, and dining parties no longer being restricted to households only.
Permitted capacity for retail outlets and places of worship is up to one-third of fire code occupancy.
Personal and wellness services can resume walk-in services, and post-secondary institutions can resume in-person learning during Step 2. Indoor and outdoor youth and adult sports are also permitted to resume with no restrictions.
Youth activities, like day camps and play centres, are able to resume with restrictions.
The work-from-home order is lifted, though still recommended.
Outdoor fixed-seating facilities (like grandstands) can open with one-third seated capacity. Public outdoor events can increase to 150 people with restrictions.
The final phase in Alberta’s reopening plan will take effect two weeks after 70 per cent of Albertans aged 12 and over have received their first vaccination. Hospitalizations will continue to be monitored but will not determine when the province enters Step 3.
Current vaccination trends and bookings leave government officials optimistic the final step will be entered into by July.
Once in Step 3, all restrictions will be lifted, including the ban on indoor gatherings. The only public health measures that will continue to apply will be isolation requirements for confirmed Covid-19 cases and protective measures for continuing-care centres and hospitals.
International travel will remain under the federal government’s jurisdiction.
For now, Albertans are encouraged to continue following public health measures and to schedule a time for vaccination.
More information is available online at bit.ly/Alberta_reopen.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze