Optimism, relief, and maybe a touch of disbelief are in the air as Alberta moves to resume normal activity.

Businesses are reopening and some annual events have returned. Seniors’ centres and Legion branches are gradually resuming their pre-pandemic activity levels.

The Alberta government lifted its health restrictions July 1, except for isolation/quarantine requirements and masking requirements in health care settings and public transit. The decision was based on a threshold of 70 per cent of Albertans over the age of 12 having received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.

But vaccination rates in the Lakeland lag far behind the 70 per cent benchmark. Almost two weeks after Alberta reached that marker, Cold Lake still has just 60 per cent of its eligible population vaccinated, while Bonnyville and St. Paul are at 52 and 50 per cent respectively.

Older adults are by far the most-vaccinated age group, with more than 85 per cent of people 75 and over vaccinated. The percentages decline in successively younger age categories, into the 30 to 40 per cent range for 12-to-39-year-olds in Bonnyville and St. Paul.

Cold Lake is at just under 50 per cent for those age categories.

The high numbers of unvaccinated people create the possibility for a fourth wave of the Covid pandemic, with new strains of the virus spreading more quickly with more severe outcomes. Alberta Health advises all Albertans who are
able to get a vaccine to book their shots.

“Sustained reopening will require Albertans to get fully vaccinated with two doses during the summer to prevent future spread,” the Alberta Health website reads. 

Meanwhile, many residents are voluntarily wearing a mask indoors, and the habit of respecting a six-foot social distance seems to have taken hold—for the time being at least.

But there is a mood of cautious optimism as stores and restaurants fully reopen, and recreational activities resume. 

Whether it’s the excitement of “Indian Relay Racing” in Bonnyville, or a leisurely morning of bocce in St. Paul,
it’s great to be outside and having fun together again. JEFF GAYE