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Economic relaunch underway

Optometrists to dentists to hairdressers, nothing will be the same

ATHABASCA - With fewer positive tests for COVID-19 being reported in Alberta, the provincial government recently announced its economic relaunch strategy and is slowly allowing businesses to once again open their doors to the public.

On April 30 Premier Jason Kenney announced a multi-stage reopening of businesses with the later stages dependent on how Albertans follow physical distancing rules after the first businesses open May 14. However, some things have opened before then, like golf courses on May 4, but not the pro shops or clubhouses. 

“If people take this as a licence to just let ‘er rip, to go out there and congregate in big crowds and ignore the public health rules … we’ll probably see a significant spike and then we’ll have to come in and shut a lot of things down again,” Kenney said during the announcement.

As of May 10, there are 1,837 active cases in the province, while 4,204 have fully recovered. The death toll is at 116 and 74 more remain in hospital. While Calgary and southern Alberta are still seeing a rise of cases, the three counties within the Town and Country This Week readership area have each had two cases and all have reportedly recovered. 

With the province's relaunch strategy, chiropractors, physical therapists, optometrists and social workers have been allowed to reopen, but must follow guidelines from their professional bodies.  

Some dentists are now providing urgent care (along with emergency services) however, they are not reopening fully until guidlines are announced, as the majority of what they do requires close contact with body fluids and using tools will aerosolize droplets. 

On May 5, the Alberta Dental Association and College posted on their website, “The ADA&C will have further information as it’s finalized regarding the expansion of services to include non-urgent dental care. This is subject to the Chief Medical Officer’s orders and the anticipated Stage 1 Alberta Relaunch Plan.” 

The same goes for dental hygienists as the majority work in conjunction with dentists in their practice. 

The College of Registered Dental Hygienists of Alberta posted a 15-page guideline that stated, “Effective May 4, 2020, dentists regulated by the Alberta Dental Association & College will be required to follow their updated guidelines on emergency and urgent treatment. The ADA&C are recommending that only emergency and urgent care be provided in dental offices until further notice.” 

For optometrist Dr. Walter Cummings in Athabasca who reopened May 8, guidelines are in place and it means increasing wearing PPEs, installing dividers and increased disinfection. 

“We’re pretty much all wearing masks, we have dividers up, we’ve reduced the patient flow to keep the number of patients in the office down to a minimum,” Cummings explained. “And lots of disinfection procedures in place.” 

Cummings added he is using equipment that allows him to not get as close to the eye like retinal cameras and is asking the standard questions about travel and illness of patients before they enter the office. 

Gina Shaw, owner of the Hair Clinic and Tanning Centre in Athabasca, says there are no guidelines from the government, but she will be doing what she did before. 

“I will be sanitizing between each client like I was before the closure,” she said. “I will watch and see what government comes up with.” 

Shaw noted that tanning booths are not part of the first stage of opening yet, something a lot of stylists have in their shops. 

Laurie Bonell who owns The Hair Shoppe and The Photo Shoppe in Athabasca concurred. 

“If you do what you were trained to do there won’t be a problem,” she said, adding that she will be wearing a mask, have hand sanitizer handy and monitoring how many people come in at one time. 

She also noted that to allow enough time between clients to properly clean, all professionals, regardless of which client-based industry they are in, will have to decide if they are going to have a reduced income or raise prices. 

“Time is money,” she said. “You have to be spacing appointments to allow time to clean between clients, so it will either cut into income or they will have to jack the prices up.” 

At The Vault Body Studio Natasha Kapitaniuk said she and Amber Camps will also be doing enhanced cleaning as well as asking customers to wear their own masks or they will be provided one for a fee. 

“One of the changes we've made is that it will be by appointment only, we will not be allowing any walk-ins into the shop and that is to not have people congregating in the waiting area,” Kapitaniuk explained. “And we are going to be requiring that clients wear their own masks (or) we will provide one for a small fee."

Kapitaniuk will be limiting the piercings and waxing she does to places where a mask doesn’t cover the face like eyebrows. 

“That's is a little tough for people because it includes a nose piercing; it's very popular,” she said. “We're just going to do the best that we can to keep everyone as safe as we can.” 

She also asks clients to be patient as appointment spaces will be limited. 

“We're going to be facing tighter work schedules because we will not be able to have more than one client at a time. So, people may wait longer for their appointments because we won't be able to do as many people in a day,” she said. “I just hope that everybody understands that it's up to them to help us accommodate them.” 

Heather Stocking,  
Follow me on Twitter @HLSox 

Heather Stocking

About the Author: Heather Stocking

Heather Stocking a reporter at the Athabasca Advocate, a weekly paper in Northern Alberta. Heather covers all aspects of the news in and around Athabasca and Boyle as well as other small communities.
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