Local MLA one of 17 opposing return to stricter restrictions

By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer
Roger Reid wants to see a more regional approach to health restrictions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and not a return to the stricter guidelines the provincial government announced last week.
The MLA for Livingstone-Macleod was one of 17 MLAs, mostly rural, who signed a letter on April 7 that stated in part, “After 13 painstaking months of COVID-19 public health restrictions, we do not support the additional restrictions imposed on Albertans yesterday, and we will continue advocating for a transparent path forward that provides certainty to Alberta families, communities, and businesses.”
In an April 12 phone interview, Reid said the letter is not about eliminating health restrictions, but instead looking at the regional numbers.
Being 13 months into the pandemic, he said, looking at the number of people in hospital and intensive care is important, but there are other measures to consider as well.
Those include the economic impact on small businesses; and people struggling with mental illness such as anxiety, stress, depression, and more.
“There’s a mental health aspect the COVID-19 impact is having on all ages,” Reid said.
He added the path forward has to be about short and long-term costs.
The pandemic has had other impacts as well, including delays to elective surgeries because hospitals are addressing the pandemic.
For about a year, Reid said, he and others have been talking about a regional approach to health guidelines.
“My constituents have continued to raise that concern,” he said.
Reid also noted he has been encouraging the government to take regional differences into account when talking to the Priorities Implementation Cabinet Committee and the Emergency Management Cabinet Committee.
He recognizes they have a tough job and have to make difficult decisions.
“They’ve never taken those decisions lightly,” he said. “We’re here to partner with them, to share feedback.
“I want to roll up my sleeves and come up with the best solutions.”
For him that means a regional approach, because there has been a mix of reactions to health restrictions.
In cities, he said, people have been more content with restrictions because they live closer together, in higher density areas where spread can happen more quickly.
“There are dynamics that happen in Alberta that are different,” he said.
That can mean having five cases in rural Alberta which may all be from the same family. Conversely, 50 cases in a more densely populated area can come from 50 different places, posing a greater threat of spread.
Generally speaking, infections are lower in rural communities than the big cities.
A regional approach could break the province into the five health zones Alberta Health Services has created, but Reid suggests the areas have to be even smaller, maybe the size of a municipal district or county.
“We’d love to sit down and help define those areas that are manageable,” Reid said, adding it is important not to create more confusion for Albertans.
However, he observed different parts of Alberta are different, pointing to how different Southern Alberta is from the area north of Edmonton.
Reid emphasized the impact these restrictions have on small businesses in rural communities and the need to do what is necessary to get Albertans into safely managed places.
He cited, as an example, personal care services such as salons where they have taken the precautions such as managing the number of people gathering, and eliminating walk-ins. Restaurants have been diligent too.
“At the end of the day business owners will not do anything to jeopardize their health (or) their customers’ health,” Reid said.
When a spike in infections occurs, he continued, the proper health measures should be implemented.
The other aspect, Reid stressed, is showing the transparency in deciding on health restrictions.
“(It’s explaining) why they’re in place,” Reid said of restrictions, and giving Albertans a sense of promise and hope in the midst of crisis.