BOWDEN — Mayor Robb Stuart says the town will muddle through with COVID’s omicron variant as best it can, but he thinks so far, the community has managed to get through the pandemic pretty well.
"I think overall we’ve had a good last year with the COVID. There was a minor impact on our residents as far as I know. There were a few that actually contracted the disease and most of them didn’t have long-term effects,” he said.
However, Stuart said some businesses likely “suffered a little bit” from having to require customers to wear masks in their premises.
He noted residents have to wear masks while going into town-owned buildings like the Town of Bowden office, library or the Igloo arena.
Stuart said a rodeo in defiance of Alberta Health Services COVID restrictions staged by residents Ty and Gail Northcott last spring created a “fooforah, ” but the community rebounded from that.
In fact, he said the Bowden Ag Society went on later in the year to stage one of its most successful rodeos ever.
Stuart said Bowden, like Olds, Innisfail and other Alberta communities, is caught in the middle between anti-vaxxers and having to implement provincially-imposed COVID rules and the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP).
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.
“They’re kind of going through the same thing we are,” he said. “We want to obey the law, one, so that we don’t get fined, but also just to protect everybody.”
In the case of the Igloo, Stuart said the Town of Bowden has required social distancing and masking for the community’s lone minor hockey team.
“Kids come in, they play hockey, they do the masking and the distancing and then they leave the building,” he said.
When it came to adult recreational hockey, town officials chose to implement the REP.
That’s been a source of contention because there’s been word that some communities are implementing a hybrid program between masking, social distancing and the REP.
“We said we would do that and Alberta Health said ‘no you’re not.’ It’s either one way or the other. It’s either restrictions and masks or showing proof of vaccinations. So we’re trying to get clarification still, because I know other arenas are doing it,” he said.
Stuart said he tried to get clarification on that issue during the Alberta Municipalities convention in November.
"I asked the question and got told, oh they’re reviewing the procedures and hoped to give us a definitive answer in the near future,” he said.