Tribe restaurant owner Paul Harris, right, consults with manager Brandon Bouchard about how to proceed under pandemic rules that make it hard for eateries to be profitable. (Contributed photo)

Tribe restaurant owner Paul Harris, right, consults with manager Brandon Bouchard about how to proceed under pandemic rules that make it hard for eateries to be profitable. (Contributed photo)

New pandemic rules deemed workable for Red Deer retailers

Stricter COVID-19 reduction measures introduced in lead-up to Christmas

As a Red Deer retailer who fears a second lockdown, Paul Harris welcomes the stricter COVID-19 control measures announced by Premier Jason Kenney.

The former city councillor, who owns both the Sunworks gift store and Tribe restaurant in downtown Red Deer, feels most retailers can work with the new rules about keeping patron numbers down.

“For us, it’s a matter of adapting,” said Harris.

Besides offering more online options, his store is opening earlier and closing later to give customers more varied shopping hours and prevent outside lineups.

Harris is also offering personal shopping — which means he’s opening the store during hours when it’s officially closed.

While more restrictions during the Christmas shopping season is rough, Harris believes the inconvenience will be worthwhile if the pandemic curve can be flattened and a second lockdown is prevented.

Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick More is encouraged a complete lockdown was not invoked in Alberta.

He believes it would have been “devastating to the businesses who have survived the last eight months.”

While this remains the only Canadian province without a mandatory mask mandate, the City of Red Deer’s bylaw requiring face coverings in indoor public places officially starts Monday.

More said, “We can argue about the loss of liberties all day long, but let’s also recognize the liberty our businesses require to provide a livelihood for their own families and those they employ…

“Clearly, there’s a delicate balance to be struck that limits the spread, protects those who are compromised, and recognizes the impact restrictions have on families and mental health.”

Harris also supports masks.

But he remains concerned bars and eateries won’t make a lot of revenue this Christmas season. Although Kenney imposed few new rules for restaurants, most are still running with fewer, distanced tables and a reduction in customers.

Family cohorts are limited to six people and people who live alone can’t eat out with more than a couple of others from different households.

Harris said he intends to shut Tribe in the short term for renovations and it might have to reopen with reduced staffing.

The NDP opposition is accusing Kenney of picking through chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s pandemic recommendations and ignoring certain ones to appease his party’s anti-masking members.

Ponoka family physician Dr. Greg Sawisky fears there will be health repercussions.

Sawisky believes the Alberta government should have invoked a short-term “circuit-breaker” lockdown several weeks ago, before cases really began spiking.

Now, he fears it’s a case of too little, too late.

The doctor believes Kenney’s announcement offered little to reduce viral transmissions in the province.

“I know people are hurting, there’s concern about businesses, (but) I’m worried there are enough loop holes” that viral spread will not be slowed.

Sawisky believes the premier “skirted his responsibility” by not invoking provincewide masking rules for indoor public spaces.

Studies have proven that face coverings can be an effective barrier to reduce the rate of viral transmissions.

While Kenney blamed casual indoor social gatherings for fuelling the pandemic spread, the medical community has pointed out some 80 per cent of recent COVID-19 cases can’t be traced, since they were spread by people without symptoms.