Light at the end of the tunnel : Calgary restaurants, bars and salons can reopen Monday

Light at the end of the tunnel : Calgary restaurants, bars and salons can reopen Monday
“This is why we must continue to practice physical distancing and enhanced hygiene, to wear masks in areas where we cannot be physically distanced from others and to just take care, especially, for the most vulnerable.”

In Alberta Health Services’ Calgary zone, 3,912 people have recovered from the deadly coronavirus. But 689 active cases remain.

That includes 45 people in the Calgary zone who have been hospitalized, of which five are receiving treatment in intensive care.

But Kenney said it was unlikely the province would mandate people to wear masks in public, adding he trusted Albertans “to exercise personal responsibility.”

He said the province has ordered 40 million non-surgical masks, half of which arrived Thursday night, and plans to distribute them to community institutions, homeless shelters and charities.

Kenney also announced that day camps, including summer schools, will be permitted to open in Calgary and Brooks starting June 1, with limits on occupancy.

Post-secondary institutions, places of worship and funeral homes will also be able to open their doors, with certain conditions.

Calgary retail businesses , farmers’ markets, museums and art galleries were allowed to reopen last week, consistent with the rest of the province.

The premier said it would take time for things to return to normal, but that Alberta was “on the right track.”

He also expressed confidence that Alberta would enter by the June 19 target date. That stage would include the potential opening of K-12 schools, libraries, theatres, massage parlours and other personal services.

Reaching the next phase would depend on factors such as the number of coronavirus cases, outbreaks and being able to limit potential surges in hospitalizations.

But Kenney noted there has been no sign elsewhere in Alberta that reopening restaurants, hair salons or retail businesses has led to an uptick in COVID-19 cases thus far.

He said there were “virtually no new cases happening” most places outside of Calgary.

“We’ve had the lightest touch in terms of public health restrictions in Canada and almost the lightest restrictions in the world, and yet we’ve had one of the best public health outcomes,” Kenney said.

“If you compare us to darn near anywhere in the developed world, we’re doing better with lower infections, lower hospitalizations, lower mortality rate. That didn’t happen through overbearing lockdown quarantines like many other places did. It happened mainly because Albertans have an ethic of personal responsibility and caring for others.”

Derek Mihalik, owner of Starbelly Open Kitchen & Lounge in the southeast, breathed a sigh of relief when he heard the province’s announcement on Friday.

He said the restaurant plans to open Tuesday, taking an extra day than needed, having prepared for similar uncertainty that last week brought.

Mihalik and his staff had originally been set to open May 14, with thousands of dollars’ worth of fresh produce and supplies purchased, only to find out the previous afternoon of the delay for Calgary.

“We feel comfortable, we feel safe and ready for Tuesday, for our staff and customers,” he said.

“But there is still that concern. What does the future look like now? Our rent and everything is based on 100 per cent capacity, and a 50 per cent world really is the unknown.”

Joe Ceci, the NDP opposition’s municipal affairs critic, called on the UCP government to reimburse restaurants that lost money due to the delay after being “blindsided” by Kenney.

“Restaurants were ready for the relaunch and had the rug pulled out from under them at the last minute,” said Ceci, the MLA for Calgary-Buffalo.

“The investments they made to relaunch the first time was lost. There’s many perishables among those. They had labour, their staff all lined up. They purchased things to get ready and there’s no indication that Jason Kenney acknowledges any of that as being his fault.”

Ceci also predicted that some businesses wouldn’t be comfortable opening right away.

More than one-third of Alberta business owners are hesitant to fully reopen due to concerns about potential shortages of personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Josh Taylor, owner of Notorious Hair Salon in Inglewood, said stations have been divided and the space “has been sanitized head to toe” in order to be ready to open Monday.

With a fully booked schedule until early June, Taylor said he’s itching to get back to “normality.”

“It was chaotic,” he said of having to delay appointments booked for the past week.

“We’ve dumped all of our last bit of money into making sure that we had all the PPE. It was kind of a blow because we were expecting that financial ease. To find out that you’ve got to wait another 11 days, that’s a big chunk of money that we missed out on.”

Mihalik said the province’s short notice was frustrating, but that “the past is the past” as operations resume.
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