Shortly after last week’s paper went to press, our newsroom learned that Alberta had successfully reached the 70 per cent vaccination threshold for launching Stage 3 of the provincial government’s reopening plan. According to Premier Jason Kenney, Albertans will be living virtually free of COVID-19 public health restrictions by July 1.
The news was understandably hard to believe. After a year and a half of bad news, it still feels natural to remain skeptical these days. A week after Kenney's jubilant announcement, we’re still struggling to accept the fact that by Canada Day, we’ll simply be allowed to attend sporting events, go shopping without wearing a face mask or plan parties, weddings or other mass gatherings. It all feels a bit surreal.
Naturally, many Albertans will continue to play it safe in the weeks – and possibly months – to come, until a higher rate of residents has received a second dose of vaccine. As of press time, the total number of Albertans who have received their second shot is about 29 per cent. That’s certainly not enough for herd immunity against COVID-19, especially since a first dose only provides partial protection.
The vaccinations have clearly worked in bringing Alberta’s COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations way, way down from where they were a few months ago. But health officials are still warning about the Delta variant, which has shown evidence of spreading countrywide. And there are still a lot of people who are not going to get vaccinated.
Was it the right decision for Alberta to remove public health restrictions so aggressively? That probably cannot be answered until mid to late July. By then, we should know if a free-for-all in allowed activity results in another spike in infections.
But hopefully, the number of vaccinated people come July means the virus will not circulate as freely as it did during the first three waves, and we can enjoy a restriction-free summer. Maybe COVID-19's final wave has finally reached the shore.