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Bowden council considers hybrid COVID rules for arena

For any activities not involving adult recreation, the Igloo could be limited to one-third capacity
MVT Greg Skotheim COVID rules
Bowden chief administrative officer Greg Skotheim reads out proposed COVID rules for the town's arena during a Jan. 10 council meeting. Doug Collie/MVP Staff

BOWDEN — Town council is expected on Jan. 17 to consider a proposal to adopt a hybrid model of COVID-19 rules in town-owned buildings. 

Greg Skotheim, the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) proposed the idea during council’s Jan. 10 meeting, saying many surrounding communities have adopted the same combination of rules. 

The building specifically discussed was the town’s arena. 

Under Skotheim’s proposal, for any activities not involving adult recreation, the Igloo would be limited to one-third capacity.  

Facility users would not be checked for proof of vaccination but masks would have to be worn. 

However, adult facility users such as rec hockey would be subject to the provincial government’s Restrictions Exemption Program (REP). Users would check for compliance with help from town staff. 

Under the REP, Albertans are required to show proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test or a valid medical exemption in order to enter many businesses, facilities and venues. 

Skotheim said if this proposal was adopted, security personnel would no longer be employed to help out at the arena, thereby saving the town more than $1,000 a week.  

So far, he said, the town had been implementing the full REP there. 

Skotheim said a health official had outlined details of the hybrid model to him and he had “documentation” for it.  

However he declined to produce that material and did not include it in council’s Jan. 10 agenda package because he said that official had not given him permission to share it and he was aware that a member of the news media was covering the meeting. 

As a result, after some discussion, councillors unanimously voted to postpone decision on the idea until their Jan. 17 meeting when it was assumed they would have access to the information Skotheim alluded to. 

Coun. Wayne Milaney said utilizing the two sets of rules for different users “just seems like a complete contradiction" and appeared to go against provincial policy. 

“Mr. Mayor, I think I’ve grasped what’s been laid out to us,” Milaney said. “However, I would be reluctant to approve a change to our policy that said you did not have to have a COVID passport to enter one of our public facilities.” 

“I understand the desire here,” Coun. Paul Webb said. “I think we all have the same desire in terms of trying to work with both sides. We haven’t seen anything in writing. We’re not being offered anything in writing.” 

Coun. Randy Brown asked for the documentation before making a decision on which way to go. 

“This just seems to be a real confusing and grey area,” Brown said, “because even in your explanation you’re contradicting yourself. 

“We should have had this in our package. We’re not going to make a decision on this without this being in our package.” 

Coun. Milaney offered a simple way to solve all the problems that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the community.  

During the Jan. 10 town council discussion regarding the virus and restrictions imposed to deal with it, he said, “can we pass a resolution to end it? At least in our town?” 

That provoked loud laughter from all his fellow councillors. 

If only it were that easy. 

The entire world is now entering its third year with the virus causing illness and even killing some people. 

On Jan. 11, provincial officials reported 4,704 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, based on 12,200 tests. On that day, there were more than 58,000 known active cases in the province. 

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID hit 708, the highest number recorded in 75 days. 

Eight people had died from the disease, bringing the death toll to 3,352.