The Alberta government launched Step 2 of eased restrictions Monday, allowing libraries to re-open at 15 per cent capacity and some indoor fitness activities to resume.
The measures fall short of plans to ease restrictions on retail and community halls, but Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Travis Toews said the government is exploring further changes.
“If (COVID) numbers stay manageable, I am hopeful we can continue to reduce and eventually eliminate all public health measures,” Toews said.
In February the government eased restrictions on indoor dining and children’s sports when hospitalizations across the province dropped below 600. The intent was to further ease restrictions in three weeks at 450 hospitalizations, with current hospitalizations at 261.
Indoor gatherings may be allowed under Step 3 in three weeks if hospitalizations remain at under 300.
“COVID has been difficult to navigate, as we look to balance ensuring the health care system is fully operational with the economic effect of public health measures and the effect on individual freedom,” Toews said.
“The bottom-line goal is to ensure our health care system can continue to function, so folks who need cardiovascular or other surgeries can access it.
“In December we came close to overrunning our health care system.”
Libraries can be open at 15 per cent of the fire code occupancy, not including staff, according to the Alberta government.
Tracy Deets, Beaverlodge Public Library manager, said she is hoping to re-open the library next week.
In the meantime, it remains available for curbside service.
In Sexsmith, Shannon Municipal Library is open with mandatory masks and up to six people in the library at a time. Patrons are asked to cap their visits at 15 minutes.
Elmworth Community Library is also open for in-person visits, with curbside service still available.
“Low-intensity” indoor group fitness is allowed by appointment, with three-metre social distancing and masks.
The government defines low-intensity exercises as including weightlifting, dance, yoga, barre and indoor climbing, as well as some use of treadmills and ellipticals.
During Monday’s press conference health minister Tyler Shandro said eased restrictions on retail and community centres may not be delayed until Step 3, potentially three weeks from now.
Based on hospitalization numbers and with the advice of chief medical officer Deena Hinshaw, the restrictions may be eased sooner, he said.
Premier Jason Kenney said diminishing new cases and evidence the spread of COVID variants is controlled could result in expediting the easing of retail and community hall restrictions.
Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News