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Alberta still determining if it's safe to enter stage two of reopening

Last Updated Feb 19, 2021 at 7:28 pm MDT

Premier Jason Kenney provides an update on the provinces COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan COVID-19 on Feb 19.(Screenshot from YourAlberta Feb 19)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Alberta’s hospitalizations continue to be below the required benchmark to enter the second stage of its economic relaunch plan, but Premier Jason Kenney says it’s still too early to consider moving forward.

The province can initiate the second phase of the “Path Forward” plan if COVID-19 hospitalizations remain under 450 for at least three weeks. This means further restrictions would be eased for retailers, banquet halls, conference centres, hotels and community halls as early as March 1.

Kenney warned if the province sees an increase in infections, hospitalizations, positivity rate, and the rate of transmission then reopening would be delayed.

“If things were to get really bad and let’s say we end up with a huge spike in new cases and hospitalizations driven by the more contagious variants, I’ve been clear we might need to introduce additional measures.”

Alberta found 14 new cases of the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the U.K. on Friday, increasing the variant case total to 246. There are also seven cases of the B.1.351 strain first identified in South Africa.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam advised against provinces and territories from reopening too quickly because of how quickly the variants can spread.

“Protecting our progress and limiting the impact of variants of concern will require stronger action, with a combination of enhanced public health measures and strict adherence to individual precautions,” Tam said.

“If we ease measures too soon the epidemic will resurge even stronger.”

Kenney said a final decision on phase two hasn’t been made and the COVID-19 cabinet committee will meet late next week to assess their data.