Rural Albertans express mixed emotions over the provincial government’s latest vaccine passport and COVID restriction rules, as the rate of active cases remains among the highest in their communities.
Despite the increasing spread of the virus, not everyone wears a mask inside stores and some companies have chosen not to implement vaccine passports for fear of losing long-term customers.
Amit Arora, owner of the Damit Amit butcher’s shop in Didsbury, says passport and mask warrants for vaccines have been a difficult topic to discuss in the town.
“Everyone has the right to have their own opinion, whether you wear a mask or don’t wear a mask, I’m just here to do business,” he said.
“If we start saying you have to do this or that, we alienate a lot of our customers, which is going to cause us to close or lose businesses that no small business can afford right now.”
Arora admits the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions have been confusing and wishes there were generalized rules for all businesses to follow.
“I wish they’d say we’re doing this for everyone or we’re not doing it. Everyone is confused, so their consistent message should be that everyone is on the same page. “
“There is no consequence in doing good things, there are a lot of rewards that came from vaccinations and for me the ‘open for summer’ message was probably a bad idea.”
MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY
Didsbury is located in the Mountain View County region of Alberta, where rates of active COVID cases are among the highest with 702.3 active cases per 100,000 people.
Meanwhile, the town of Olds is also experiencing a high volume of cases with 756.1 active cases per 100,000 population.
This community currently lags behind the provincial average of fully immunized eligible people and is also located in the Central Zone, where hospitalizations have increased to become the most hospitalized region per capita in Alberta.
Currently, just over 71 percent of Albertans 12 and older have been fully immunized, but the vaccination rate in Olds is just under 65 percent.
Michael Ng, owner of the family restaurant A&J in Olds, said the low vaccination rate forced him not to adopt the restriction exemption program.
He has chosen to only offer a take-out service, which has so far taken a 50% share of his earnings.
“I saw a lot of people get angry about it,” he said.
“I don’t want to impose vaccines and I don’t want a bad client to come in here and we end up fighting or something and then ruining my business.”
Olds Mayor Michael Muzychka said tensions were mounting in the city when it came to getting vaccinated or masquerading, but urged everyone to respect each other’s opinions.
“It’s definitely tense, it’s definitely one of the hottest topics, but that’s why I reach out and urge people to be respectful and do all I can to respect the opinions of others,” did he declare.
“I encourage everyone to stay as safe as possible, so please, if you don’t have the vaccine, see a healthcare professional and do what’s right for you and your family,” did he declare.
Muzychka added that his community fared better than other communities with lower vaccination rates, such as Ponoka County (57 percent), Lacombe County (58 percent), Red County Deer (54 percent) and Didsbury (60 percent). .
He also hopes the province will take a regional mandate approach and adjust restrictions accordingly.
“I think a much clearer message under the Alberta government would be very helpful. Our position here in the town of Olds is that we certainly do not have the resources to employ experts better than the Government of Alberta can afford.