By Cole Parkinson
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the province, Vauxhall town council has been discussing the issues it has brought for the community and surrounding area. During their regular council meeting held on Aug. 7, councillors brought forward COVID-19 concerns during a delegation from Pam Davidson — who’s running for Alberta Senate.
“The other concern that is happening both provincially and federally is COVID and the numbers,” stated Mayor Margaret Plumtree. “Are we going to have shutdowns again because our businesses don’t have the capacity with the federal grants that came out, there wasn’t really anything provincially with grants, but they did tend to help the sole proprietor. Anyone who did start a business right around the start of COVID, there was nothing really for them.”
While the province has given no indication another lockdown is on the horizon, it’s still a concern for Vauxhall council.
“My fear if we go into a lockdown again, there will be some businesses that will never make it, including some of our larger incorporations,” said Plumtree.
“Like Cineplex — if we shut down again, will they exist again? Will people feel comfortable again? And gyms and personal fitness — those businesses have been hit hard,” continued Plumtree.
Another concern brought forward by Plumtree is around rapid testing.
With school back in session for kids, the lack of rapid testing in schools is a concern for her.
“Rapid test kits is something that is helping. They came out way too late and the federal government made the arrangements that chambers could get them, but they came out too late when we were opening up. So no one utilized them and now that our numbers are increasing, we are getting more businesses taking them on. They are only for businesses to use for employees, they can’t use them for customers at all,” she said. “Rapid tests aren’t even in schools yet — that’s crazy.”
“It makes even more sense to have everyone be vaccinated, but good luck with that,” added Coun. Richard Phillips. “There’s only one way out of this mess.”
Later in the agenda, Plumtree also updated council on a recent town hall meeting between the province and several Alberta municipalities.
During the town hall meeting, the provincial government asked municipalities to try and get their residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
“The town hall meeting with Deena Hinshaw and Minister (Ric) McIver, they were talking to everyone from municipalities that called in. It was a very different conversation this time around — they are asking us for ideas on how to get some of our, well, they want all of our community vaccinated, but obviously, we can’t have children under 12,” added Plumtree. “We know there are different reasons why people are not getting vaccinated. Are there some who have some hesitancies where we can try and break through those barriers?”
Others were concerned about the province’s desire to vaccinate everyone.
It was brought up that some people were advised not to get a vaccine for various medical reasons.
“I would say they aren’t asking the right questions. I think the stigma is if you’re unvaccinated you’re a conspiracy theorist. I think it’s pushing people to have to defend themselves with their own medical reasons for not being vaccinated. I don’t think the province has taken that into consideration at all,” stated Coun. Kim Cawley. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all to be vaccinated and people have their reasons why medically. I’ve heard stories of physicians are recommending their patients don’t get vaccinated with their condition. If that’s the case, why is the push so hard?”
“I think the idea is they were trying to get to 70-75 per cent fully vaccinated. We opened up the province before we got there,” replied Plumtree.
Cawley also pointed out further testing should be done.
“The next question would be to start testing for antibodies and let’s see who is already immune to it,” added Cawley.
Others also expressed their thoughts on how to tackle COVID-19.
“I think as a society we have overreacted in many respects. To most people, it’s not serious, but for many, it has been, and for too many, it has been devastating. We’re never going to get out of this mess until people have immunity and the easiest way to get immunity is to get a vaccine, which is painful, but people blame everything that goes wrong on the vaccine, which I think is nonsense,” added Phillips. “It’s a no-brainer to get a vaccine, but a lot of people are not doing the obvious.”
“I think people are on the far end, depending on where they stand on it and not too many people in the middle anymore,” added Plumtree.
While Phillips acknowledged those not getting a vaccine because of medical reasons were valid, the others were not.
“If your reason is because you’re a conspiracy theorist anti-vaxxer, which is some of them, that’s a pretty cheap reason. If you have a medical reason why you aren’t getting the vaccine because it would be bad for you, I would suggest you deserve an exemption. For the average person, they don’t have a good reason. It will continue to mutate and evolve and we’ll have more and more variants.”
The acceptance of particular vaccinations has also been a talking point.
With certain countries not acknowledging the AstraZeneca vaccine, some have stated they would wait until they could acquire a vaccine that would allow them to travel.
“I spoke to someone who has had three vaccines because they want to travel and only one is showing up on their passport. So it was all a waste of time for them and that’s the reason they wanted to get it,” added Cawley. “I know other people who wanted to go to a specific country to visit family and they are waiting until they know what vaccine that country is going to accept because they won’t go get six different vaccines.”
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