The Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Don Scott both want to see the province starting easing COVID-19 measures in lesser impacted areas.
The government of Alberta introduced mandatory restrictions back in December which include prohibiting social gatherings, issuing a province-wide mask mandate, and having bars and restaurants stop in-person dining.
So far, the province has slightly eased rules around outdoor gatherings, weddings, funerals, and personal and wellness services.
Dianna De Sousa, Executive Director of the Chamber, tells Mix News the region is consistently seeing COVID-19 numbers drop and shouldn’t be held back by other communities seeing the opposite.
“We are very far away from any other big city and we have a fairly large population and a fairly robust small business sector… we do feel all businesses can have some form of opening with proper measures in place.”
As of Tuesday, there were over 120 active cases in the RMWB. There were more than 280 active cases roughly two weeks ago.
Speaking on Fort McMurray Matters, Scott stated he supports the idea of a regional approach to easing restrictions.
He claims he heard from several businesses who also just want to know when and how they can reopen.
“We don’t know when it’s going to reopen, there’s no target date. There’s no sense of how we’re going to win this fight, we know we’re heading in the right direction but what’s the triggering point to get rid of these rules.”
If the restrictions continue as is, small businesses will need additional supports.
De Sousa added the current supports being offered by the province are helpful but don’t cover the entire costs they’re losing each day they remain restricted under the measures.
“We will need to increase the support we provide for them if this prolonged. We will be looking at insolvencies, you’re gonna be looking at increased mental health issues.”
She, along with Scott, note the province has a tough job finding a medium balance between a lockdown and reopening.
It’s getting harder as multiple cases of the new COVID-19 variants discovered in the United Kingdom and South Africa have popped up in Alberta with one believed to have come from community transmission.
They add more supports will be needed if the province extends measures to protect against the new strains.
Meanwhile, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, spoke to reporters last week where she outlined her concerns on a regional approach.
“What we have seen over the fall is how interconnected we all are and the movement between different towns and movement between different towns and small, rural areas. All of that movement is part of what spreads COVID-19.”