Proof of at least one COVID-19 vaccination should be required for Calgary Stampede visitors to prevent a fourth wave, says a Red Deer family doctor.
Dr. Peter Bouch said as cases drop and vaccinations climb, reducing COVID restrictions makes sense, but caution is required for large-scale events.
Unvaccinated people could bring COVID to the stampede and the contagious variants could spread like wildfire, he said.
“People can say, ‘it’s my human right not to be vaccinated.’ But it’s not your human right to spread the virus, putting other people at risk.”
He said only those with allergies to the vaccine — which is extremely rare — should be exempt from vaccination.
“There needs to be some accountability and some responsibility.”
On Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney unveiled a three-stage road map for lifting health restrictions. The aim is to return to normal by early July, in time for the Calgary Stampede.
A decision about Red Deer’s annual Westerner Days, held in mid-July, will be announced in a few weeks.
Bouch said Alberta would look pretty bad, again, if there was a fourth wave after the stampede, which would put people at risk and be catastrophic for small businesses.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Keith Wolstenholme said as with any reopening during the pandemic, there will be an initial uptick in patients so it’s important that second vaccine shots be available as soon as possible.
“As we’re going to start to open in July, I think people need to have access to their second shot. I would really encourage everybody to get their vaccines,” Wolstenholme said.
He said tying the reopening schedule to vaccination and hospitalization targets was important.
“There’s been some negative comments about it, but it’s based on vaccination and hospitalization rates. That’s what we’ve been pushing for, and worried about, the whole time,” Wolstenholme said.
“Once we reach a certain level of herd immunity, via infection or vaccination, I think you have to open it up otherwise people aren’t going to buy in. Eventually we have to get back to normal.”
As of Friday, Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre had seven patients in ICU, so restrictions in recent weeks helped knock down cases, he said.
Stage 1 of the reopening will start Tuesday, two weeks after 50 per cent of Albertans 12 and older received at least one dose of vaccine and COVID-19 hospitalizations went below 800.
During Stage 1, outdoor dining at tables of up to four people from the same household will be allowed. Outdoor social gatherings can include up to 10 people but indoor gatherings are still prohibited. Up to 10 people can also participate in outdoor physical, recreational or performance activities and retail services can increase to 15 per cent occupancy.
Personal and wellness services can also reopen by appointment only and wedding ceremonies can have up to 10 people and funerals up to 20. Wedding receptions and post-funeral ceremonies remain prohibited.
Restrictions will be further eased at Stage 2, which the province projects to hit by mid-June.
All restrictions will be lifted, including bans on indoor and social gatherings, at Stage 3 which is expected to be reached by early July.