The Alberta government says it’s not considering granting hotels or any other venues an exemption to the COVID-19 15-person social gathering limit for the time being.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the new limits for Calgary and Edmonton on Monday, after case numbers have risen sharply in recent weeks.
The Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association has asked that the limit not apply to gatherings at hotels, however, Hinshaw said Thursday that all locations hosting a social gathering will be subject to the order.
“The really key point with respect to that 15-person limit is that any event where there is a social element of mixing and mingling, where there is that socializing between tables, whenever there is an event that has any of that behavior, then that has to meet that 15-person cap wherever the location is,” she said.
“So if that location is in a hotel or a restaurant, community hall or a person’s home, it has to be a 15-person cap if it is a social event.”
For Penny Dyte, co-owner of Venue308, the new restrictions came as a shock for both her and couples planning weddings there, and she believes establishments like hers shouldn’t be “lumped in with the unsupervised, unlicensed, uncertified AHS buckets.”
“Fifty people in here are pretty easily kept separated,” Dyte said about her 4,950-square-foot space.
She said they follow two of the government’s guidelines; the first being restaurant directives which mean tables are kept six feet apart, only six people are allowed at a table, and people must be seated with members of their cohort.
The second is that everyone in the establishment, including the three staff that would be working a 50-person event, would be required to wear a mask.
Dyte said they also avoid allowing dances other than traditional wedding dances like newlyweds’ first dance, father-daughter, etc., at the venue, adding that mixing alcohol with dancing would make it harder to ensure people are keeping their distance from others.
Couples can still have their marriage ceremonies at Venue308, but once the vows are exchanged, they have to move on without the reception, which means Dyte’s revenue goes down, causing further suffering to their business.
Dyte said she would like to see the government allow venues like hers, which host sit-down, masked and physically distanced events, to continue under the previous 50-person limit.
Dave Kaiser, president and CEO of the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association, said Thursday the organization was in talks with the province about a possible exemption to the guidelines, but didn’t provide any further information about what exactly the association was seeking.
Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said as of Thursday, no exemptions have been granted to any establishment.
“The 15-person limit on gatherings is a targeted measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health system.
“It is based on evidence which shows that about 45 per cent of all active cases in Calgary and Edmonton are currently linked to household or social gatherings,” he said.
Dyte said she’d like to see more transparency from the government around where the outbreaks are happening, so venues like hers and others can learn from that information.
— With files from Global News’ Christa DaoView link »