After hundreds of people attended a rodeo in central Alberta to oppose COVID-19 limits, Alberta Health Services says it is looking into legal options. However, others have questioned whether the event was even permitted to take place in the first place.
Hundreds of people attended a rodeo in an empty lot along Highway 2A near Bowden, about 30 kilometers south of Red Deer, over the weekend as Alberta registered thousands of new COVID-19 cases, hitting levels not seen before in the pandemic.
Despite the fact that Alberta was not under a strict lockdown during the pandemic, the rodeo was billed as an anti-lockdown affair. While dine-in service is closed, in-store retail is permitted, and outdoor events for groups of fewer than ten people are permitted.
The healthcare system in Alberta is bracing for a huge influx of patients, and some regions have cut down on surgeries to plan.
The province now has the highest active case rate in either Canada or the United States, with a total of 22,920 active COVID-19 cases, the highest number ever.
According to an AHS spokesperson, inspectors informed rodeo organizers in writing prior to the event that the event would violate public health restrictions if it went ahead as planned, and that AHS was exploring legal options.
In an emailed statement, AHS said, “It is disappointing that the organizers ignored this information and went ahead with their case, knowing it was a direct violation of the existing public health restrictions.”
According to an RCMP spokesperson, no charges have been filed in connection with the incident on Sunday.
Premier Jason Kenney scolded rodeo goers on Twitter on Sunday afternoon, after being chastised for taking too long to enact new restrictions and failing to enforce existing ones.
“At a personal level, I’m both outraged and depressed to see so many people prioritize themselves over others. Rodeo honors Alberta’s Western heritage, which includes a strong sense of community and concern for others, especially the vulnerable “Kenney explained.
“That’s exactly what these people are doing.” Kenney blamed Albertans for the current state of the province, saying they are ignoring the restrictions.