A Mirror, AB business owner was running a drive-in movie service before Alberta Health Services deemed it a mass gathering. (Photo submitted by the Whistle Stop Cafe)

UPDATE: AHS to allow drive-ins with rules and regulations in place

Business owner originally frustrated after being ordered to shut down by AHS

The Whistle Stop Cafe announced on their Facebook page that AHS has agreed to allow drive-in movies

“I received word from our area AHS inspector, the provincial government has listened to our concerns and they have agreed to allow drive in theatres,” the post said. “They have not released the rules and regulations yet, but I’m hoping we will have them soon.”

The post said they will be asking for food service as well as public washrooms.

“AHS heard our voices everyone, and they’re working with us. We will keep everyone updated as to details but there is a very good chance that we will have some great, safe entertainment happening at the Whistle Stop Cafe this weekend ,” the post stated.

The post thanked the community for their support.

“Thank you to everyone for your support, to Mr. Orr who went to bat for us, Mr. Barclay who rallied for us, everyone who wrote emails, made phone calls, sent letters, it was all of you who put things in motion and made things happen. Well done,” it stated.

***Original Story***

A Mirror business owner is frustrated after Alberta Health Services shut down the drive-in movie service he was running.

Christopher Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Care, said he wanted to do the drive-in movie to help get people out with their families during the pandemic. At first, the movies had about five to six cars, but after three weeks — they were seeing over 60 cars, which AHS deemed to be a large gathering and against current public health orders. Scott said participants where following social distancing guidelines.

“I got an email saying they are considering it a mass gathering and they ordered us to shut down. We pressed the issue asking them what the problem was if everyone is following the social distancing guidelines, the same way people are doing it at Wal-Mart or Superstore?,” Scott said.

A statement from AHS said they are evaluating drive-in movies on a case-by-case basis.

“Alberta Health Services’ Environmental Public Health (EPH) Inspectors are assessing and providing recommendations for drive-in movie events on a case-by-case basis to ensure organizers do not violate the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s Order,” the statement said.

“Distancing protocols prohibit gatherings of more than 15 people and these events are likely to attract more than that.”

Currently, a gathering is prohibited above 15 people in Alberta and as of March 25, law enforcement agencies have been granted full authority to enforce the public health orders and can issue fines of up to $1,000 if you hold and attend a mass gathering.

Courts could also administer fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence for more serious violations.

At alberta.ca/covid-19, they provide examples of prohibited mass gatherings including: weddings, funerals, religious services, informal events, concerts, arts and cultural festivals, agricultural fairs and rodeos, major sporting championships, conferences, educational seminars and workshops and group volunteering initiatives.

Scott said AHS had concerns that people would get out of their vehicles and interact.

The statement from AHS said they and Alberta Health are working closely with event organizers to ensure public health protocols are followed.

“This will help ensure drive-in movie events can take place, with all the appropriate risk mitigation protocols,” the statement read. “These include: the availability and the type of food service available, availability of public washrooms, appropriate cleaning and disinfecting of high touch surfaces – all the while respecting physical distancing.”

Scott said they are currently complying with the public health orders from AHS but do not want to remain closed for long.

“It was a kick in the teeth. So many people from the community have come up to us and have been so appreciative for us doing something that gets them out of the house,” he said.

Scott said it is important for people to get out of the house due to the mental health pressures of being at home during the COVID-19 crisis and the drive-in was also a way to help his resteraunt business, which can only do curbside pick-up according to public health orders.

“It was a real let-down. We are struggling like any small business, so went out on a limb and stocked up on our movie nights to ensure everyone had what they wanted. I have a full store and a full resteraunt with nothing to do with it,” he said.

Scott said he wants to work with AHS on this issue to find resolution.

“If we are following the rules and providing a service they need, I don’t see any reason why they should no work with us,” he said.

The statement from AHS said events like this only work if public health orders and physical distancing are stictly followed.

“If risk mitigation and public health and safety requirements are not met, the operator of the drive-in event would be in violation of a Chief Medical Officer of Health Order and our AHS EPH teams will ensure the event is postponed until such measures are met,” the statement read.

AHS added it is crucial people stay home if they are sick.

“Stay home if you have respiratory symptoms like a cough, fever and/or sore throat. For more information, visit AHS.ca/COVID19 or alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx.



todd.vaughan@lacombeexpress.com

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