Several Lethbridge organizations affected by COVID-19 restrictions are feeling slighted and confused, as the province announced Monday that restrictions would not be eased.
Leonard Binning, president of the Movie Mill, says he was “disappointed, devastated and literally dumbfounded” when he found out movie theatres would have to stay closed.
“If I felt in any way, shape or form that we were contributing to the jeopardy of the public health, then I would agree 100 per cent,” Binning said. “But I don’t feel that the way we were operating or the way theatres, in general, were operating contributes negatively in any way.”
Step 3 includes the potential easing of adult team sports, casinos, racing centres, bingo halls, museums, art galleries, zoos, interpretive centres and places of worship.
It would also see the further easing of youth sport and recreation activities, indoor social gatherings with restrictions and indoor seated events, such as movie theatres.
According to the province, the decision was made not to go forward with easing in any areas immediately — although they were able to on March 22 — due to rising case numbers, an increase in variant cases and a growing number of hospitalizations.
Binning says guest safety is the top priority and was confused when theatres were placed in Step 3 to begin with while other businesses such as restaurants were allowed to reopen in early February.
“I have no problem with restaurants, bars and pubs being open, but I feel that we offer as safe — if not, a safer environment — in a distanced situation,” he said. “The six months we were open, we were at 25 to 33 per cent capacity restrictions.
“You could shoot a cannon through the theatre and not hit anybody. There’s lots of room.”
Suzanne Lint, executive director of the Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge, says she understands why the decision was made to postpone Step 3 but also feels galleries and museums should have been considered in earlier stages.
“The last time we came out of a shutdown, galleries were in Stage 1, and I think they were there for a super good reason,” Lint said. “It’s super easy to manager traffic flow into galleries and museums.”
The Rocky Mountain Turf club is anticipating a season start in May but its racing operation is being impacted by continued travel restrictions.
General manager Rose Rossi says she was disappointed to hear casinos weren’t given the green light to reopen, believing they are able to operate in a safe manner.
“People that frequent casinos and their demographics would have been people that have taken their shots, we think, by now,” Rossi said, “which would reduce that risk, compared to other places.”
Mayor Chris Spearman says he understands the struggles organizations are facing but is content with the province’s decision not to move forward with further easing of restrictions.
“I think where we’re at is fine as long as everyone observes and abides by the restrictions that have been provided by Alberta Health Services,” Spearman said.
“We’ve always said we want to keep our businesses open. The only way we’ll do that is if we can get our numbers down.”
As of the most recent update, Lethbridge had 524 active cases.
– With files from Phil Heidenreich