Alberta is reopening, and this time I sincerely hope it will be for good. The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary defines health care as “efforts made to maintain or restore physical, mental or emotional well-being”. In short, physicality makes up only one-third of what is considered overall health by the medical dictionary itself. Similarly, the World Health Organization’s Constitution defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
As governments all over the world – ours included – continue their pursuit of flattening the COVID-19 curve, we must stop treating COVID-19 in isolation and rather must begin treating it as a part of our greater healthcare system. Those struggling with depression, isolation, anxiety or suicidal thoughts in themselves or their children deserve to be nurtured equally to those suffering from physical symptoms of the virus. The wellbeing of people fighting internal battles is just as important as the wellbeing of those fighting physical ones, and that is why I believe reopening our province is so incredibly important right now. No handout or government support can supplement a life, dream or livelihood lost. We, as human beings, need something to live for again; a reason to get out of bed in the morning and face the day ahead with optimism. So, Alberta is carefully reopening.
Even amidst the strongest public health restrictions our government ensured 85 per cent of Alberta’s economy could remain open in some capacity, but recently we unveiled a clear, transparent plan that will restore full and long awaited normalcy to our society. As someone who has been critical of non-targeted, non- regional, lockdown-style restrictions in all jurisdictions that have implemented them, I am incredibly excited to see such a plan introduced. It will not only begin the process of carefully reopening our province but it will put us on the path to fully restoring our old normal, where we walked without fear of our futures and congregated by the thousands to celebrate our favourite sports teams and musical artists. Our province has always been a world leader in more ways than one, and now is our chance to also lead in taking back charge of our own destiny – even if the rest of the world isn’t prepared to follow.
The four-step plan we unveiled is based on strong data and the capacity of our healthcare system to support not only COVID-19 patients, but also patients dealing with heart failure, kidney disease, orthopedic injury and other health ailments. Less than 10 per cent of Alberta’s positive COVID-19 cases required hospitalization, so rather than restrict the entire province based on case numbers alone – 94 per cent of which did not present serious symptoms or require any health treatment – our path forward is based strictly on hospital capacity and our ability to provide healthcare to those that need it the most.
Every step forward is based on a decline of hospitalizations by 150 less than the previous step, with a three-week buffer in between. Step 1 began on February 8 and was primarily characterized by the careful reopening of restaurants, pubs and coffee shops for in-person dining, purposefully in time for Valentine’s Day. Step 2, which we already have data to justify entering but are waiting in the three-week buffer period, will be primarily characterized by the reopening of fitness facilities and increased retail shopping capacity. Step 3, achieved when our hospitalizations dip below 300, will see the reopening of attractions such as museums, movie theatres and art galleries, the resumption of adult sports, and most importantly an easement of social gathering restrictions. Finally, in Step 4 we will be able to once again attend major performance events such as music festivals, concerts, sporting events, wedding receptions and conferences.
Albertans have fought through a lot, not just over the past year but over the past six. Our business community, in particular, has been struggling for years, which our government has worked hard to help by lowering taxes, introducing grants and incentive programs, and reducing red tape. But COVID-19 has challenged us all with a new level of economic adversity. After all we’ve gone through as a province, Albertans deserve to know that their government has a plan and is committed to taking on the risks with courage to get Albertans’ lives back on track.
If you know me, you’ll know that I strive to keep partisanship away from my life. I have a deeply held conviction that our world needs more governance and less politics, more unity and less division. Hearing our opposition refer to the decision to reopen Alberta as “political”, based not on professional health advice despite being made in cooperation with health experts, shows their clear lack of understanding for both the data on COVID-19 and the hardship so many Albertans have endured over the past year.
We are Albertans. We are a self-determinant people and facing adversity with confidence has always been in our DNA. Prolonged, mass shutdowns are not the solution. Embracing the true Albertan inside each of us and taking a confident, diligent and optimistic step forward into our future as a province is.
You have spoken, and you have been clear that it is time we relinquish our fears to a common belief that the best is yet to come. Together, we can not only take charge of our own destinies again, but we can pave a way for the rest of the world to see that life safely can, and must go on from here.