COVID-19: Hinshaw cautions those seeking loopholes during team sports ban

Alberta’s top doctor was firm in tone during an update Wednesday, with a warning she called “deadly serious,” amid reports that Albertans are looking for ways around the province’s current two-week COVID-19 restrictions.

Read more: New restrictions announced for Alberta as 860 COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths reported Thursday

Dr. Deena Hinshaw answered questions regarding the temporary ban on team sports, saying she’s aware of groups in affected areas trying to book practises in nearby communities not impacted by the pause.

“Let me be clear. The intent of these measures is to facilitate a two-week hard stop,” she said.

“I have heard people say that while we have communicated that this is just for two weeks, they believe it will last longer, so they don’t want to comply. We cannot create a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

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The ban on indoor team sports currently applies to the Calgary and Edmonton areas, as well as the cities of Lethbridge, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Red Deer.

Read more: Less COVID-19 transmission data, contact tracers overwhelmed as Alberta records 11 more deaths

The Town of Claresholm confirmed to Global News on Tuesday that it had received two requests for ice time immediately following the announcement of the restrictions last week; one from Lethbridge and one from an unknown area.

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An official from the Town of Raymond also confirmed non-local calls requesting rink bookings, saying it will not be renting to any new groups.

The Town of Coaldale also reported a denied request, with the director of recreation and community services saying a “Lethbridge old-timers hockey group” had been turned away.

Lethbridge minor hockey coach Dino Caputo said he hasn’t been surprised by what he’s hearing.

“This isn’t something that’s new, this is something that happened back in March too,” Caputo said. “You heard the rumours and the stories of people driving into Calgary to go in the back doors of private arenas.”

Caputo’s Southern Express U-15 Elite AA team is comprised of girls from all over southern Alberta, with only three living in Lethbridge. But he said despite the restrictions not applying to the majority of his players, his team was happy to comply.

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“I’m very proud of them, the girls have committed,” he said. “We want to play hockey, so we want to follow the rules.”

Read more: COVID-19 delays Lethbridge’s Ridly Greig from entering Hockey Canada bubble

But Caputo said he worries that the few rule-breakers will make things even worse for those voluntarily following the rules.

“I mean, is it frustrating? Sure it is,” he said. “Especially when we took a lot of pride in our team to try and do things right, and then you find people who are trying to find loopholes.”

Hinshaw’s warning on Wednesday mirrored Caputo’s fears, with the doctor saying there could be even tighter restrictions if people don’t take the current ones seriously.

“These actions risk not just further restrictions on their own businesses and activities, but further restrictions for all those who are choosing to comply and going above and beyond as well,” Hinshaw said.

The current restrictions are scheduled to be in place until Nov. 27.

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