ATHABASCA — The Athabasca Regional Multiplex (ARM) and Nancy Appleby Theatre (NAT) will be requiring proof of vaccination to take part in activities at either location.
A Sept. 20 news release stated the ARM board of directors chose to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 rapid test obtained within the past 72 hours starting Oct. 4.
“Any youth 18 and under, do not need to provide a proof of vaccination or negative test or medical exemption, if they are a part of a sport," said ARM general manager Rhonda Alix Sept. 23. “The only time they would be if they are a spectator.”
For now, all adult activities like aquafit are unavailable, Alix added.
“We can start on Oct. 4, because of course all the adult programming had to stop if we didn't implement the exemption program,” she said.
On Sept. 15 the Alberta Government announced a state of public health emergency following an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases across the province which has forced the cancellations of surgeries and filled intensive care units.
On Sept. 21 the Alberta Government requested federal assistance with the onslaught of cases and Premier Jason Kenney swapped Health Minister Tyler Shandro with MLA Jason Copping, the former minister of labour and Immigration, now led by Shandro.
Businesses and entities like ARM then had to choose between limited access and higher restrictions or implementing checking vaccine status, exemption letters or proof of a clear COVID-19 test.
“When you put it all down on paper, the one-third restriction, when you started looking at it you still can't have any adult curling, you can't have any adult hockey, you can't have any shinny (hockey), all those kinds of things,” said ARM board chair Travais Johnson Sept. 23. “You can't have any weddings; you can't have any – there’s a whole bunch of things you can’t have – it’s more than just one-third capacity.”
Johnson said he made the original motion to move to one-third capacity which was defeated and the board discussed the options extensively before choosing the REP.
“I keep hearing this one-third capacity, well there’s one-third capacity, we could have 300 people and now we can have 100, yeah, great, you’re under but it isn’t; there’s more restrictions there of what you cannot have,” said Johnson. “So, this way we can still function without laying off staff."
From Oct. 4-25, patrons to either facility must provide proof of at least one approved COVID-19 vaccination, medical exemption or a negative privately-paid PCR (polymerase chain reaction) or rapid test taken within 72 hours of trying to gain entry.
After Oct. 25 patrons will need to provide proof of at least two doses of an approved vaccine, an exemption or a clear COVID-19 test.
“And then 12 and under obviously are exempt throughout the whole building even if they are a spectator,” said Alix.
The requirements suit Richard Nolan and his band Delirium who will be putting on their annual Halloween concert and party in the Fieldhouse Oct. 31.
"While we are disappointed that we can’t perform for 100 per cent of our fan base as a result of the times we are currently living in, we are thrilled that we can still perform for everyone that meets these mandated requirements. We expect to have another great turnout, and we are looking forward to seeing everyone out again and having fun in their costumes," Nolan said in a Sept. 24 text message. “And hey, given that it’s a Halloween concert, many of our fans would have been wearing a mask anyway."
Johnson wants to stress if anyone is upset with the requirements though, not to take it out on staff.
“It’s not the staff, no sense in screaming at (someone) at the front desk,” he said. “If you want to scream at someone phone and yell and scream at me.”
ARM also has a policy to ban any user who is abusive to staff.
“We changed one of our policies, so basically you get suspended; don’t come back,” said Johnson.
He added that while it's a personal choice not to be vaccinated, those who make that choice should also be aware there will be things they can’t take part in.
“If you don’t want to get vaccinated and stuff like that then OK, don’t go to the Multiplex, don’t go to the restaurants; let the businesses function (so) they can make a living and put food on their table and carry on,” he said. “No sense yelling and screaming and carrying on and being belligerent to people. It’s like we’re going backwards instead of forwards.”