‘We just want to be open, we’re ready’: Alberta businesses prepare for potential easing of restrictions

CALGARY — Businesses in the fitness and hospitality industries are anticipating some more restrictions will be lifted soon as health officials have hinted that a decision is expected Monday.

Retail, gyms and fitness centres are preparing with the belief that capacity-related restrictions may be eased.

GoodLife Fitness notified its members of a tentative plan to reopen at 12:15 p.m. Monday barring any change from the province, but has since told CTV News it will only open the doors once it receives the go ahead from the province.

“In the event the Alberta government does not confirm we can reopen by 12:15 p.m. on Monday, we will delay our reopening until the new confirmed date/time,” said Tracy Matthews, vice president of operations with GoodLife Fitness.

Under the first step of the province’s relaunch plan, fitness studios and gyms were allowed to reopen but only for one-on-one training.

Some fitness providers say they are cautiously optimistic they will be permitted to resume group classes safely.

“We do think we’re safe already, but if there’s a safer way to do it, if they want us to wear mask or space out, (then we will,)” said Grady Topak, co-ownder of YYC and YEG Cycle Spin Studio.

Topak says resuming operations would not make up of the loss of revenue of the months of closure and increased restrictions in response to the first and second wave of the pandemic.

“Even if we could have five bikes running in there with one instructor that’s something we’d be happy to do. Even if it would be a drop in the bucket for revenue, it still helps right now. We just want to be open, we’re ready.”

Calgary’s hotel association expects there will be some good news for the industry that has suffered due to a lack of tourism in the last year.

“Hotels have had to get used to two things. Limited facilities and lack of travellers,” said Sol Zia, executive director of the association. “It’s mainly been ‘staycation’ and regional travel and adaptation as facilities are opened.”

Some medical professionals are opposed to the proposal of easing restrictions at a time when there are indicators the Alberta’s position could worsen.

“If COVID-19 starts to take hold again especially with the variants on the horizon, it could flame up very quickly and we (we would be put) right back where we started with restrictions,” said Calgary-based emergency room physician Dr. Joe Vipond.

“It’s this roller coaster of restrictions that we need to avoid.”

He also says he would prefer to see a strategy to reduce the case numbers to zero.

Vipond’s says his views don’t reflect Alberta Health Services of the department of emergency medicine.

According to the province, Step 2 will only be implemented when hospitalizations remain below 450 for three straight weeks.

As of Sunday, 250 people remain in hospital with COVID-19, 46 of whom are in ICU.

The province requires three-week intervals between steps, and officials have said that steps will not be skipped.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says a number of factors will be considered, including the variant case numbers, the positivity rate and the province’s R-value.

A list of the phased re-opening process can be found here.

With files from CTV’s Tyson Fedor

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