What we learned at the Business Town Hall with the Government of Alberta
A province-wide telephone town hall was held on February 3rd hosted by Premier Kenney, Dr. Deena Hinshaw - Chief Medical Officer of Health, Martin Long - Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Tourism and Doug Schweitzer - Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation. This call was specifically held to answer questions from the business community regarding business restrictions and stepped plan to re-opening businesses.
Questions were asked from specific businesses and industry groups such as fitness facilities, dance studios, hotel and casino operators. Both the Premier and Dr. Hinshaw provided information regarding the stepped approach to restrictions that have been developed:
During this call, it was reiterated that the overarching reality is that there was large community spread in the fall despite all the protocols that businesses had implemented. Exponential growth was possible and occurring even though so many investments were made by businesses across the province. Those measures were not strong enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in communities.
Using the lessons learned in the fall and also taking into account the variants that are now being seen in Alberta a much more cautious approach needs to be made to reopen businesses as we are still at high risk of community spread of COVID. The previous re-opening strategies that were developed and used in the spring are not applicable now as there is much higher community spread, infection rates and hospitalizations.
When developing the framework it was acknowledged that there are some businesses that do carry more risk, for example, the hospitality industry, but if all protocols are adhered to and businesses ensure that their customers are following rules, this will play a huge role in ensuring our case numbers and infection rates keep dropping. However, if case numbers, infection rates, R values and hospitalizations start to grow again there may be a need to go into a much more severe lockdown.
In this opening, the government is focusing on small groups first mostly limited to single-family groups. Any environment that has a flow of traffic that could have families interact outside their own bubble, for example, galleries or tradeshows, is prohibited at this time.
As businesses in sectors are moved through the steps restrictions will be eased through the phases. Those businesses that were allowed to open in a previous step of the framework should see restrictions within their sector eased.
Schools have been prioritized in opening and there are protocols in school to prevent the spread of COVID.
It is imperative that we all keep following protocols to keep our case numbers, infection rates and hospitalizations on the decline as this will help all businesses.