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Uncertainty for businesses in fourth wave

“Right now, as a business community it's frustrating because it's an ever-changing landscape,” St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce chair Curtis Crouse said.
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Businesses are grappling with the uncertainty of the fourth wave of COVID-19 and are having to make decisions around masking and proof of vaccination as they try to keep customers safe.

Local businesses are grappling with tough decisions, such as mandatory masking, mandatory vaccines, and continuing work from home orders as the fourth wave of COVID-19 surges in the province.

Curtis Crouse, chair of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce and owner of his own business, A-1 Heating and Cooling, said right now it is difficult for businesses to navigate the fourth wave while trying to find the best way to stay open and keep safety in mind.

“Right now, as a business community it's frustrating because it's an ever-changing landscape,” Crouse said.

“We're staring down the pipe of probably having to make decisions ahead of the government, so that we can get consistent things in place and not rely on external policy.”

Crouse said with Edmonton implementing a masking mandate this week and St. Albert and other regional municipalities still mulling over their next move, the chair said the region should instead be collaborating so the rules are consistent in the region. 

"Do it together. Announce it together. Have the same guidelines so that you're not guessing from city to city or town town, what you're supposed to do," Crouse said. 

Many businesses and organizations are wrestling with these decisions but a slew of them have already implemented mask mandates or rules that staff have to be double vaccinated, including some long-term care homes in St. Albert.

Five seniors’ care homes announced in August that they would require COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for their staff in long-term care and retirement homes across Canada by Oct. 12, including the Chartwell St. Albert Retirement Residence and the Revera River Ridge.

Sharon Ranalli, vice-president of marketing and communications for Chartwell Retirement Residences, said right now the organizations have high employee vaccination rates — 86 per cent of all staff in the Chartwell retirement residences across Canada have received their first shot.

“However, as we enter the fourth wave, we believe strongly that the risk of the virus to our residents and the need to continue enjoying their lives, requires us to do more,” Ranalli said.

“Since vaccines are our best defence against COVID-19 and the ongoing threats posed by emerging virus variants, beginning Oct. 12, 2021, Chartwell employees who refuse vaccinations will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence,” Ranalli said.

Chartwell has 12 retirement residences in Alberta with about 1,200 staff members combined who will be impacted by the decision. 

Other organizations have been challenged with how to approach the fourth wave, with large businesses taking the lead on requiring proof of vaccines to visit. 

To attend an Edmonton Oilers game a person must provide proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test to enter the building and the Oilers Entertainment Group will require all employees, volunteers, and contractors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at least 14 days prior to Sept. 28.

“After careful deliberation with stakeholders, including the NHL, WHL, live entertainment promoters, our fans, and Alberta Health, we believe these changes are not only vital to the safety of our fans and staff, but also critical in the fight against COVID-19 as we welcome fans back to our venue and do our part for the safe reopening our city, province, and country,” the Oilers group said in a statement Tuesday.

In Edmonton the city is considering a vaccine mandate for all city staff as the organization is starting to begin the process of bringing staff back to the office. 

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said at a media availability on Monday the city is considering a vaccine mandate for City of Edmonton employees as cases rise across the province. 

“I think the numbers we’re seeing in Alberta are concerning,” Iveson said.

“There appears to be a fourth wave beginning here in spite of our best efforts.”

Right now city employees are being asked to anonymously and voluntarily share their vaccination status. 

“With other major public-sector employees, including the Government of Canada and the City of Toronto, requiring vaccination, it’s something we’re looking at very closely,” Iveson said, adding the city legal team is examining the issue. 

“There are obvious occupational health and safety upsides, and personally, I think those outweigh the other issues,” Iveson said. 

The Gazette reached out to ten businesses for this story but they did not return The Gazette's requests for comment by deadline on Tuesday. 

Jennifer Henderson

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette and has been with Great West Media since 2015
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