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Some Alberta businesses vow to stay open despite return of COVID-19 restrictions

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WATCH: Some Alberta business owners have taken to social media vowing to stay open despite increased health restrictions. As Tracy Nagai reports, people have already donated thousands of dollars to help with their legal fees – Apr 7, 2021

Some Alberta businesses owners are taking to social media vowing to keep their businesses open in the face of another round of COVID-19 health restrictions.

Read more: Alberta shuts down indoor dining, group fitness amid surging 3rd wave COVID-19, variant cases

“Over the last year, the government has crushed the fitness industry in Alberta,” Dustin Sutley, founder of Sweat Science Boxing said in a video post on social media. “We’ve had to shut our doors completely six out of the last twelve months and face crippling restrictions over the remainder of the year.

“We have decided to be proactive, we have the numbers, we are united and we are not closing.”

Sutley is among a number of businesses that have taken their frustrations online, stating they will remain open despite public health orders.

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“These businesses are owned by people just like you and me,” he said in the video posted last week. “People with families, mortgages, grocery bills and these gyms also employ people just like me and you.”

Read more: Alberta shuts down indoor dining, group fitness amid surging 3rd wave COVID-19, variant cases

On Tuesday, the provincial government announced that Alberta would be heading back to Step 1.

That means as of midnight Wednesday, indoor group fitness activities are no longer permitted and only household or individual training with a trainer is allowed.

“I know some Albertans will disagree with the government’s decision today,” Premier Jason Kenney said during Tuesday’s news conference. “That includes, undoubtedly, some people in my own caucus and party.”

“I fully expect to hear some of those opinions publicly in the coming days and I welcome that.”

Emily Slaneff, the CEO of CrushCamp, said she will be following the health restrictions, however she understands Albertan’s frustrations.

“Everything is very much operated like a well-oiled machine and designed around safety and around the guidelines that are in place — the guidelines work,” she said.

Read more: 17 UCP MLAs revolt against Alberta government’s renewed COVID-19 restrictions

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Slaneff is now calling on the government to provide more financial support and the data that supports its decision making regarding public health orders.

“They seem to be making these decisions just off the cuff, based on the decisions of a couple of poor operators,” she said.

“They’re toying with our lives and our livelihoods without any data to back it up.”

Read more: Alberta doctors say new restrictions ‘not enough’ to reduce spread of COVID-19

Meanwhile, some fitness centres wish the government would take the restrictions even further.

“I think that ‘COVID zero’ is the way to go to really get us back to a healthy and safe place,” Elliot Weinstein the owner of The Beach YYC said. “I’m not even sure we’re doing serious closures (in the province) right now.”

“We could definitely do more and it just feels like we’re waiting for vaccines rather than taking an aggressive approach to deal with COVID.”

Weinstein added he also has no plans to defy the public health orders.

“I personally believe that the health and safety of our customers and our staff is too important to risk even one case.”

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A GoFundMe has already raised thousands of dollars to support business who decide to stay open and need their legal costs covered, as well as to help those who are struggling financially due to the pandemic.

“The only thing these measures are preventing is the survival of an entire industry,” Sutley said. “Gyms are far too important to be held at the mercy of the government.”

Read more: GraceLife Church fenced off as Alberta Health Service ‘physically closes’ Parkland County facility

Currently the fine for defying public health orders in Alberta ranges from $1,000 to $100,000 for a first offense.

“The initial focus is always on public education and working with Albertans to address any concerns,” said Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan.

“However, any police agency or public health inspector is empowered to take enforcement action against individuals or businesses not complying with public health orders.”

“We know it’s been a long pandemic, but all Albertans must do their part to support these measures and bend the curve one last time.”

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