Following the provincial government’s implementation of the Restriction Exemption Program (REP) earlier this fall, Crossfield Town council has voted to enact the program for the municipality’s community centre until further changes are made by the province.
The unanimously approved motion, voted on during a special Town council meeting on Sept. 28, means that events in the Crossfield and District Community Centre will fall under the REP. According to the Alberta government, facilities operating under the REP require either proof of vaccination against COVID-19, a recent negative test result, or documentation of a medical exemption against COVID-19 immunization.
Smaller organizers at Town-owned facilities will participate in the REP under their own supervision, while larger events such as weddings, funerals, and fundraisers will have to utilize Town of Crossfield-hired security employees, at the cost of the organizers.
According to the Town's manager of community services Russ Nash, one of the challenging parts of getting to the decision came from whether or not the Town could place responsibility on user groups to screen their own attendees.
“We were also unsure if we could allow our smaller groups to screen themselves, while requiring the larger groups to use our staff or security to screen for proof of vaccination, medical exemption, or a negative test,” he said.
A list of questions were sent to Alberta Health Services (AHS) on behalf of the Town to find next steps. According to Nash, AHS’s response said user groups can facilitate screening as long as an agreement is in place that makes them responsible.
Nash added the Crossfield Fall Farmer’s Market on Oct. 2 will be exempt from the program, but it will still have to adhere to mandatory masking, physical distancing, and a one-third capacity.
“Although this is a potentially divisive subject, and it might introduce additional barriers for some groups, implementing REP for the community centre would allow more groups to proceed with their activities, who would otherwise have to shut down or cancel again,” Nash said. “It would also help maintain a source of revenue for the community centre.”
The decision comes after numerous public health measures designed to incentivize immunization were announced by Premier Jason Kenney on Sept. 15. According to a government press release, some measures were to take effect on Sept. 16, while others were to begin Sept. 20.
“We are taking necessary and critical steps to prevent our health system from being overwhelmed and once again slow the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta,” Kenney said via a press release.
“These steps are not easy for anyone, but with COVID-19 hospitalizations continuing to rise, particularly amongst the unvaccinated, we have no choice but to implement the proof of vaccination measures and temporary restrictions,"
The Town of Crossfield also operates the Pete Knight Memorial Arena. But because the only groups using the arena are local youth groups, whose members do not fall under the REP requirements, the amenity does not fall under the program.