COVID-19: Some businesses disappointed by Alberta’s Step 2 reopening plan


The Alberta government announced Monday it was entering Step 2 of its pandemic-reopening plan, but some businesses that thought they might be able to resume activities at this stage found out they will still have to wait.

“It’s devastating on a personal level,” said Grady Topak, a co-owner of YEG Cycle Spin Studio in Edmonton. “As a business owner, this year’s been tough.

“But it’s also been devastating for our employees, many of them who have been without work for… seven months of the last year that we’ve been completely closed.”

Topak’s business won’t be able to offer high-intensity group workouts as a result of the loosening of restrictions that took effect Monday.

The easing of restrictions announced by Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Premier Jason Kenney will allow for low-intensity group fitness workouts and also let libraries reopen.

Because of ongoing concern that Alberta’s declining hospitalization numbers could reverse as a result of new COVID-19 variants that experts say may have the possibility to spread the coronavirus exponentially faster, the province held off on allowing for other activities it had previously outlined in Step 2, like allowing for more customers in retail environments and easing restrictions on banquet and community halls.

“We’re not out of the woods, but we can continue taking small steps forward,” Kenney said.

Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, said she believes provincial officials are trying to navigate what is an “uneasy phase that we are in right now.”

“It’s tough because the numbers have been OK, but the whole wildcard of the variants and everything has made it really challenging,” she said. “It sounds like they’re trying to balance some competing concerns and I think there’s been a lot of pressure to get gyms open.

“(It looks like) they’re trying to reduce the risk related with fitness facilities and open them in a reasonable way, so I guess we’ll see how that pans out.”

Topak said he believes his fitness studio has demonstrated previously that it is able to operate safely amid the pandemic.