COVID-19 anxiety spiking for some as Alberta gets closer to easing restrictions

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Aron Schilf met with his staff at Track ‘N Trail the day after the Alberta government announced almost all COVID-19 public health restrictions could be lifted by late June or early July.

As general manager of the shops on Whyte Avenue and in St. Albert, he wanted to understand how they were feeling about potentially being restriction-free so soon.

“Everybody was quite shocked and feeling anxious about what that would mean for our store and our staff,” he said.

It’s likely they’ll continue to require masks for both staff and customers even without a public health order until at least two weeks after all staff have two doses of a vaccine. Staff might revisit the decision if numbers drop dramatically, he said. But “we really want our staff to feel comfortable and feel safe. We want our clients to feel comfortable and safe.”

A recent survey by Leger with the Association for Canadian Studies found that about half of Canadians were feeling at least somewhat anxious about going back to the way life was before the pandemic.


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Alberta’s plan, which will see almost all restrictions lifted two weeks after 70 per cent of the population 12 or older has at least one dose of a vaccine, has raised alarms with some doctors. But it’s been defended by both Premier Jason Kenney and chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Postmedia heard from many Edmontonians who plan to maintain some level of protection for themselves, such as only meeting with friends outdoors or continuing to wear masks in public settings, even if public health orders are no longer in place.

Heather Sproull said she’s feeling anxious and wishes there was better communication from the government around how safe people are after just one dose.

“I think I’ll stick to mainly outdoor interactions with people that are in my close contacts … I will not be attending anything ridiculous, like a rodeo, or a concert,” she said.

Sproull, an education student at the University of Alberta, said she’s also worried about school starting in person in September. Her classes will be all in-person and she doesn’t know if the classrooms will allow for precautions like spacing or masks.

“What I’d like to know is, (if) I’m in a class of 60 students, am I going to be in a classroom with 60 seats? Or am I going to be in a classroom with 120 seats? Because those types of things do make a difference,” she said.

Ellen Campbell moved back to Edmonton at the beginning of the pandemic to be closer to her family.

“I can more or less protect myself, and most of the people in my little bubble will also continue to take action to protect themselves,” she said.


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“I’m not going … to a bunch of crowded indoor places in the foreseeable future. I’m going to keep wearing masks. I’m going to keep working from home.”

She’s concerned about large gatherings, such as the Calgary Stampede, that will be allowed to go ahead if the province meets the set benchmarks.

“We’re going to risk all of these people just for a week of debauchery,” she said.

Kenney has repeatedly defended allowing the Stampede, saying that organizers are prepared, the province’s plan is safe and prudent and there are contingency plans in place if necessary.

On Friday, he said large community events like the Stampede are important to people’s mental and emotional health.

“I think being able to get out and reconnect as a community is actually critically important,” he said.

Dr. Vincent Agyapong, director of community psychiatry at the University of Alberta, said it’s perfectly understandable for people to be feeling anxious after what they’ve been through over the last 15 months.

“Unfortunately, people are still dying. We know that we haven’t been able to immunize everybody. We know that there are questions around the effectiveness of the vaccine in children younger than 12 years old, and so on,” he said.

People who are anxious should first make sure that they get themselves immunized, he said. As for masking and hand sanitizer, he said it’s reasonable for people who have only had one dose of the vaccine to continue with these “common sense” measures in the meantime.

With files from The Canadian Press


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