Hot and cold: How Alberta communities with fewer COVID-19 cases, restrictions prepare for sudden change
DRUMHELLER, ALTA. -- Teeing off is a bit easier in Drumheller these days than it is in the rest of the province.
With fewer than 30 active cases in town, Drumheller is one of the few communities that isn't in a so-called "hot spot" for COVID-19. Health restrictions - particularly outdoor gatherings and activities - aren't as strict as elsewhere.
Neil Dobell works at the golf course outside of town and says he wouldn't be surprised if people from restricted areas such as Calgary start making their way out there.
"We'd love to have people come out, absolutely," he says "We've got a great golf course, it's really unique and we have museums, (as well as) lots of camping in the area."
Reaching out to out-of-towners may be tempting for this community.
Many business estimate 80 per cent of their business comes from tourists, business that's fallen off dramatically since the pandemic hit more than a year ago.
"Any day we can stay open is great," said Drumheller chief administrative officer Darryl Drohomerksi. "We've been seeing a lot of visitors to the valley and locals trying to spur on business at the same time....but I don't think we're encouraging anyone to come to Drumheller just to sit on a patio."
Drohmerski says it's important to heed provincial health authorities' warnings, and minimize unnecessary travel between communities.
He says he's hoping things return to normal by this summer and the tourist hub can be rejuvenated.
Meanwhile, Rachel Marciano says the constantly changing rules are already causing her headaches.
Even though Drumheller isn't a hot spot, it still has to follow provincial guidelines and cease all patio dining next week
That comes just a few weeks after Marciano bought several picnic tables for her ice cream store and Vietnamese restaurant, just as the province was encouraging outdoor get together at pubs and diners.
"It's frustrating," says, adding that city travellers account for more than three-quarters of her business, "but of course safer for us if we follow restrictions."
As for Friday, Drumheller had 25 active cases of COVID-19, five fewer than the threshold to become a hot-spot, and two fewer than the day before.
Still, some businesses say they're assuming they'll be facing heavier restrictions soon, and planning accordingly.
They hope once they are allowed to fully reopen - whether it's in a few weeks or a few months - that it will be for good.