Maskless protesters at Alberta rally urged to get tested after participant tests positive for COVID-19

Attendees at a Saturday rally against public health restrictions in Medicine Hat, Alta., are being urged by Alberta Health Services to book a COVID-19 test after one of the protesters tested positive.

“We ask those in attendance to book an appointment for testing, whether symptomatic or not,” AHS said in an emailed statement on Monday, adding that close contacts can book tests online or by calling 811.

Dozens of maskless protesters met in the parking lot of J Rocks Bar and Grill on Saturday — with signs denouncing mandatory vaccines and lockdowns, neither of which are policies in Alberta. 

AHS said last Thursday it had issued a closure order for J Rocks as a result of non-compliance with provincial health restrictions that prohibit dine-in service.

“The risks posed by people and businesses choosing to defy public health orders are very real, particularly given the rise in cases involving more contagious variants,” an AHS spokesperson said in an emailed statement. 

ASH said enforcement is taken only when significant risk is identified or there is continued non-compliance, and that further enforcement like suspension of the restaurant’s food handling permit would be pursued if the closure isn’t followed. 

Medicine Hat Police said that while no police enforcement was done at Saturday’s rally, officers were in attendance to gather information and share it with AHS. 

The province is fighting a third wave of COVID-19, with more than 20,000 active cases and hundreds of people in hospital. There are 141 active cases in Medicine Hat.

On Monday, posters on an anti-health rules Facebook page for Medicine Hat were calling for rally attendees not to follow the provincial health advice to be tested for COVID-19.

J Rocks restaurant said in a Facebook post that it remained open and was welcoming customers to visit indoors with their neighbours. 

Premier Jason Kenney said Monday that he continues to urge everyone to follow health restrictions like distancing and wearing masks, as well as getting immunized once eligible. However, he said he doesn’t plan at this point to introduce further restrictions as “more rules do not necessarily increase compliance.”

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