BOWDEN — Mayor Robb Stuart sympathizes with local business owners who are frustrated with continuing COVID-19 lockdown measures.
But at the same time, he agrees with the Alberta government’s concern that if rural areas are opened up, people from Calgary and other large cities may shop and eat there, potentially creating a COVID surge in small communities.
“I understand they’re worried about the new variants, and I know it’s kind of similar; the rural areas are concerned because we have very few cases and yet it seems like the cities have significant cases," Stuart said during an interivew.
"I understand they don’t want shoppers leaving the city to come to Airdrie for example, but why is Walmart and not – and this is the continuous discussion that all the elected officials have with our MLAs, right? That you open the Walmarts and you open Costco and yet you limit Joe’s clothing store.”
Stuart said that concern has been brought up during Bowden council meetings and during meetings he’s had with southern Alberta mayors and elsewhere.
“I don’t like wearing a mask myself, but I do it. The rules are there and you’ve got to follow them in my opinion,” he said.
“Of course, I’m not a business owner, so I can understand that yeah, when you see your income’s cut and you’re serving five people instead of 35 (it’s frustrating).”
Stuart said he was a bit surprised when the provincial government announced on March 22 that it was not lifting pandemic restrictions, due to increasing hospitalizations and case counts.
Earlier, the provincial government had indicated that that was the earliest date that it might move to Step 3 and loosen restrictions according to its pandemic reopening plan -- if conditions warranted that move.
To get to that state though, the province had to have fewer than 300 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and that number had to be falling.
However, as of March 22, there were 280 people in hospital, up 16 from the previous week and Shandro said indications were that figure was rising and could move above 300 within a week.