The majority of public health measures to protect against COVID-19 were lifted Thursday, as the province moved into Stage 3 of its reopening plan.
That move towards entering Stage 3 was triggered two weeks ago when the province reached 70 per cent of its adult population with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As of Thursday, 72.8 per cent of eligible Albertans have received their first dose of vaccine and 42.4 per cent are fully vaccinated, offering a strong level of community protection in the province.
Alberta Health estimates that 50 per cent of eligible Albertans will be fully immunized by July 6.
“This is a fantastic day for Alberta. We have crushed COVID-19 and with cases plummeting and vaccine uptake climbing, we are open for summer,” said Premier Jason Kenney in anews release.
“With vaccines on our side, businesses can once again thrive, and Albertans can get back to their normal lives. Together, thanks to the sacrifices made by Albertans, we have made it through this terrible time. Now, a new day dawns and the future looks bright.”
The provincial mask mandate has mostly been lifted, with masking is still required in hospitals, continuing care, mass transit, rideshares, and taxis. Mandatory isolation and quarantine rules remain in place.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are still required to isolate for 10 days and close contacts of confirmed cases are still required to quarantine – with the length dependent on vaccination status.
The province also released a five-page “general guidance for COVID-19 and other respiratory illness” document on Thursday.
“We are entering a new phase in our fight against this virus,” said Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw in a release.
“As we gather and celebrate with our loved ones, I encourage every Albertan to continue to get their vaccines, make safe choices and support each other with compassion through this time of transition.”
The new guidance includes allowing businesses to assess the role of face masks in the workplace and encourage staff awareness about the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
When working with high-risk populations or unvaccinated individuals, measures that will provide additional protection include limiting the total number of people present in a small indoor space, or maintaining spacing between people who are in close proximity.
The document notes that the requirement to remain two metres physically distanced is no longer legally mandatory.
Operators are also encouraged to develop and implement procedures for cleaning and disinfecting of facilities including high traffic areas, common areas, public washrooms and showering facilities.
While vaccines are not legally required in Alberta, the document notes that “where vaccines are available (e.g., for COVID-19 or the flu), it is strongly recommended that all eligible individuals be immunized.”