Though local leaders are expressing some support of eased restrictions, many are also calling for more from the Alberta government.
COVID restrictions introduced in December are being relaxed now after hospitalizations have fallen to the “benchmark” of 600 across the province.
The change comes as part of a phasing of eased restrictions based on hospitalization numbers, unveiled by premier Jason Kenney last week.
“I am thankful we finally have a timeline from the province so that we can understand what they’re thinking,” said Sexsmith mayor Kate Potter.
Restaurants, cafés and pubs are allowed to re-open for in-person dining with a maximum of six per table from the same household, according to the Alberta government.
A person living alone can dine with his or her two close contacts.
Liquor service must end by 10 p.m. and dining by 11. Entertainment like VLTs and live music can’t be hosted by these businesses, according to the new restrictions.
“I am in favour of re-opening and helping save our restaurants,” Potter said.
“They have been very patient and co-operative in following all the health guidelines and in-person dining can be done responsibly and safely.
“This is a very positive move.”
Beaverlodge mayor Gary Rycroft also welcomed the change.
“Restaurants deserve that break,” Rycroft said.
“They’ve done a very good job before with keeping things clean, and the transmission in restaurants was very low.”
Indoor social gathering restrictions otherwise won’t be eased until Alberta drops below 300 hospitalizations.
School sport activities permitted
Children’s sports are allowed if they are school activities, including the use of off-site facilities.
Indoor fitness activities such as dance and figure skating are allowed with one-on-one sessions, by appointment only, according to the restrictions.
Trainers must be certified or paid professionals. Sports games and team practices remain banned.
One thing Potter said she’d also like to see is allowing family cohorts where two families can interact with each other, similar to measures last spring.
“A major concern is mental health,” she said.
“We have seen a drastic uptake in mental health issues, which take a toll physically and relationally. This needs to be addressed very soon.”
Rycroft said he’d like the Alberta government to share more data; without it, he said the town can’t act with its own restrictions, such as consideration of a mandatory mask bylaw before the province-wide order took effect, he said.
The province has never informed the town of a COVID case in Beaverlodge due to patient confidentiality, he said.
“It’s very frustrating,” Rycroft said.
According to the Alberta government, the next step in easing the restrictions will unfold when hospitalizations decline to 450.
At that point, the government will announce some easing of restrictions on retail, currently limited to 15 per cent capacity, and community halls, which are closed.
At 300 hospitalizations, restrictions on churches, adult team sports, museums, theatres and libraries will be eased, according to the government.
Museums and libraries are closed and churches limited to 15 per cent capacity.
Finally, at 150 hospitalizations there will be an easing of restrictions on wedding ceremonies and receptions and funeral receptions, and a lifting of the work-from-home order.
Wedding ceremonies and funeral services are currently capped at 10 and 20, respectively, and receptions are banned.
Mandatory masks in indoor public spaces and social distancing will remain required throughout all these stages, according to the Alberta government.
Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News