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A Central Alberta rodeo went forward Saturday after Alberta Health granted organizers an exemption from ongoing public health restrictions.

The event featuring Alberta junior and senior high school students kicked off Saturday afternoon in Ponoka, about 60 kilometres north of Red Deer
Jason Herring
Calgarians are flocking to get their COVID shots at the Immunization Clinic set up at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
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A central Alberta rodeo went forward Saturday after Alberta Health granted organizers an exemption from ongoing public health restrictions.
The rodeo comes as Albertas case counts of the novel coronavirus reach their lowest point in more than a month.
The event, featuring Alberta junior and senior high school students and hosted by the Alberta High School Rodeo Association, kicked off Saturday afternoon in Ponoka, about 60 kilometres north of Red Deer.
Alberta Health said rodeos are allowed to proceed if they are granted an exemption from current COVID-19 restrictions, which currently ban all indoor recreation activities across the province. Those granted an exception are required to comply with strict health measures in place to prevent viral spread.
Those rules include requirements that only rodeo participants, venue staff, rodeo personnel and judges essential to the rodeo are allowed in the venue. In-person audiences are not permitted, and rodeo participants must maintain two metres of physical distance from one another at all times.
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When reached by Postmedia Saturday, a representative with the Alberta High School Rodeo Association said the group would publish a news release about their exemption in two weeks but would not comment on the matter until then.
Ponoka County, where the rodeo is being held, is considered a region with high COVID-19 case rates, with 545 cases per 100,000 residents.
Alberta rodeos became a flashpoint in the third wave of the pandemic after a May 1 rodeo dubbed the No More Lockdowns Rodeo drew hundreds of people to the event outside of Bowden in violation of public health orders.
Premier Jason Kenney said after the rodeo he was angered and saddened by attendees flouting COVID-19 rules, calling on them to smarten up. Ty and Gail Nortcott, who organized the event, are set to appear before a provincial judge Monday for violating the Public Health Act.
Alberta has published a seven-page document outlining rodeo exemptions, with details for organizers on submitting applications for exemptions up to three weeks in advance of their event.
Thirteen rodeos have been granted exemptions, Alberta Health said Saturday. That count includes future rodeos as well as events which have already taken place.
Rodeos are expected to be a part of Alberta life this summer as the province emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on 770 CHQR Friday, Kenney said the province was working with the federal government to get special permissions for rodeo athletes to travel to Canada with some flexibility around quarantine requirements; the Public Health Agency of Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Postmedia Saturday.
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Meanwhile, an April letter sent from chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw to industry stakeholders, including Rodeo Canada, illustrated possible timelines for a return to in-person events, with the possibility for up to 500 attendees at outdoor events by late June.
Albertas third wave continued to ebb Saturday, with 1,195 new cases reported the lowest number in more than a month.
The new cases came from about 13,000 tests, representing a 9.2 per cent positivity rate. The last time Alberta logged fewer new cases was April 12.
COVID-19 case rates continue to drop in Alberta, with the province recording a 24 per cent week-over-week decline in new infections. Over the past week, Alberta has tallied 10,664 cases of the novel coronavirus, compared to 13,990 over the previous seven-day stretch.
Hospitalization rates also declined Saturday. There are now 686 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, down from 713 the previous day. Intensive-care unit rates reached a new peak, however, with 178 ICU patients in beds across the province.
Active case rates declined Saturday for the fourth consecutive day. There are now 22,993 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, down from 23,873 the previous day.
Three more deaths from the virus were reported, bringing Albertas toll from the pandemic to 2,140. Two of the deaths men in their 40s and 70s occurred in the Alberta Health Services Calgary zone.
Vaccinations against COVID-19 continue at a quick pace in Alberta, with another 57,691 doses reported Saturday, the third-highest daily total ever.
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Through Friday, 2.14 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Alberta, with 1.82 million Albertans having received at least one of their two necessary shots. In total, 40.7 per cent of Albertans and 47.4 per cent of those age 12 and over have had at least one dose.
Calgary saw a daytime high of 23 C Saturday, with Environment Canada forecasting highs reaching 25 C Sunday.
The sunny days are a good opportunity to spend time outdoors, where COVID-19 spreads less easily, said Albertas top doctor.
I encourage you to enjoy the warmer weather this weekend, Hinshaw wrote on Twitter.
Find ways to spend time outside like going for a walk or bike ride with your household. Please remember to follow all public health restrictions and stay home if you feel sick.
jherring@postmedia.com
Twitter: @jasonfherring
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