OLDS — As businesses begin opening up again, Olds Coun. Mary Anne Overwater is worried about how safe that will be; whether reopening might spark another increase in COVID-19 infections.
Overwater raised that concern with Brian Powell, director of the town’s Emergency Operations Centre, during a May 11 council meeting (held via Zoom).
“Because when I hear of some other provinces where they’ve started opening up some of their businesses and their numbers have risen drastically for the COVID-19, are we at all kind of concerned with that Mr. Powell, or what is your summation of that?”
Powell said officials at the Emergency Operations Centre are indeed concerned about that possibility.
He said the town’s economic development support and recovery team is working with at least 99 local businesses on a reopening plan.
Overwater cited the example of hair dressing salons and barber shops. They were given the go-ahead to open as early as May 14.
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“Who is going to go in and monitor that they’re following the correct procedures with the face masks, the gloves,” she asked.
“And the other businesses that are going to be opening up as well, who is going to go and monitor that they’re actually following protocol?”
“Right now, we are of the understanding is that is all public health-related responsibility and it is on a complaint by complaint basis,” Powell said.
Powell indicated concerns about social distancing will likely be watched by community peace officers (CPOs).
“Now I’m not advocating putting a CPO in a hair salon,” he said.
“You might,” he was told with a bit of laughter. “You know us women and our hair.”
“How that’s to look is yet to be determined and so those are great questions that we’ve brought forward and yet to have those answers,” Powell said.
“We basically will have those conversations with our CPOs and they’re our eyes on the ground, essentially watching for that congregation piece.”
He noted City of Calgary officials are concerned about what could happen if kids gather at skateboard parks, for example.
“This is (a) great question but also a great concern on how we’re going to have that civil compliance, that public compliance, to deal with that two-metre separation, maximum 15 congregation,” Powell said.
He also reiterated a concern raised a few weeks ago by Coun. Wanda Blatz: what happens when more people begin coming into Olds from other communities?
“People are concerned, and we are too,” Powell said. “We believe that we have a collaborative approach to do this systematically and look at this, consider this, very slowly and cautiously, seeing how we can handle this and not to be foolhardy and open the floodgates to allow everything to return.”
He pointed out that if infection rates begin to spike after businesses open and people return to work, the reopening plan might be altered.