The Alberta government is moving to force all municipalities in the province to lift their COVID-19 mask bylaws.
Something that Albertans do not deserve right now is uncertainty and confusion, Premier Jason Kenney said at a news conference in Red Deer Tuesday.
That is why I am announcing today that Alberta’s government will introduce in the legislature, as soon as possible, amendments to the Municipal Government Act which will remove the abilities of municipalities to impose their own separate public health restrictions.
The Alberta government lifted its mask mandate as of March 1 as part of its general easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Calgary ended its face covering bylaw at the same time.
However, the City of Edmonton’s face-covering bylaw remains in effect. Edmonton city council will hold a special meeting on March 8 to discuss its mask bylaw.
A patchwork of separate policies across the province could just lead to greater division, confusion, enforcement difficulty with no compelling public health rationale, Kenney said.
“That’s why we have decided to move forward united with a clear, consistent approach that all Albertans can easily understand and comply with.
We certainly shouldn’t allow political science to be a substitute for public health science.
Kenney said he hopes the amendments to legislation will be introduced in the legislature as early as next week.
Nearly all pandemic public health measures were lifted in the province as of today, as the Alberta government launched Step 2 of its reopening plan.
On Saturday, Kenney announced that the phased approach to further lift restrictions — and adopt an endemic approach to COVID-19 — would go ahead as planned.
Remaining school requirements, including cohorting, have been lifted, along with youth screening for entertainment and sports.
Capacity limits on all large venues and entertainment venues, limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings and a mandatory work-from-home mandate have all been removed.
We cannot live forever in fear and we are social beings, Kenney said.
We are made to encounter one another, to see each other’s faces, to smile, to embrace our family and friends, to regain the social lives that we have been so deeply impaired for the past two years and that is exactly what this plan allows us to do.
While the provincial mask mandate has been removed, face coverings are still required in some high-risk settings, including at Alberta Health Services facilities and continuing care sites, and on public transit.
Kenney has said the province is working toward a third stage of its reopening plan where people would no longer be required to isolate if they have COVID-19. That step would also see the lifting of COVID operational and outbreak protocols in continuing care facilities.
The province is reviewing issues around the waning protection of vaccines, the growing transmissibility of COVID-19, and the cost and inaccuracy of rapid antigen tests, Kenney said.
We need to address the workforce challenges that we are facing, particularly in nursing homes and some rural hospitals in under-vaccinated areas, given that there is no longer a compelling policy rationale for proof of vaccination programs, he said.
There is no set date for Step 3 but Kenney has said each stage is contingent on hospitalization trends.
Provincial data shows non-ICU hospitalizations have been generally declining for over two weeks, while the number of ICU admissions has dropped.
This does not mean that COVID-19 is not still a concern in Alberta, Health Minister Jason Copping said. “We will continue to monitor the impact of the virus and any other variants that make their way into our province.
” We will have to adjust to assessing risks and making decisions that are best for us and our families.”