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Alberta

“We’re doing our best to be prepared for anything”

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Little more than a month ago, members of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference – and the fans and parents who care about this under-valued level of college sport — were seriously focused on next week – specifically a Monday morning meeting in Medicine Hat.

For many years, interest and intensity have grown at this time of year. The month of May marks the formal start of preparation for the coming season, primarily soccer and golf and cross-country. A lot of details are needed to have everything ready when the first flag flies.

This year is bound to be different. Possible change, everywhere, is set for debate during the five-day annual general meeting.

Mark Kosak, the ACAC’s chief executive officer, made clear his belief that the major issues, time and money, must be faced head-on. Several outlines will be considered in a virtual meeting – “lots of protocols and requirements in place.” All participants have some insight to his combination of caution and aggression.

“So many complexities, so many variables,” Kosak said. “We’re doing our best to be prepared for anything.” He specified the pressure of dealing with COVID-19, of course, but also dealt with an ongoing issue in minor and amateur sports at all levels: “Everybody has financial troubles” that existed long before the pandemic arrived.

Front and centre is the need for the Augustana Vikings to complete the elimination of men’s soccer (the women’s program will survive) and to continue the community- and alumni-led bid to keep men’s hockey alive despite intense financial pressures. An interesting conundrum presented by Kosak: the backlash faced by Keyano College officials when they eliminated their Huskies hockey team a few years back and resulted in an about-face. “We have a proposal from Keyano to enter both men’s and women’s hockey; now, Keyano has agreed to wait until next year for a decision.”

“Honestly, there’s no real chance to tell what’s going to happen,” Jason Richey, head of the NAIT Ooks athlete program, said in a brief recent discussion. “As far as I can tell, the only way to avoid cutting some of our early sports is if, somehow, the distancing regulations are changed in time, but it’s too early to count on that, I think.”

Three options – all tied to the paced of reopening the economy — will be discussed in Medicine Hat. One Saskatchewan team, the Briercrest Clippers, may face regulations different from the bulk of ACAC members.

Kosak’s proposals:

* Start on schedule, Sept. 15 or thereabouts, with first-term sports such as soccer, cross-country and golf;

* Prepare for a potential Oct. 1 start, requiring less play in those three sports but maintaining full activity in the others.

* Eliminate the early events if necessary and prepare to begin remaining sports after Christmas. keeping them at the busiest possible level: futsal indoors rather than the outdoor game; maybe one full golf tournament in the fall; possibly a series of indoor track meets.

Kosak and others have been somewhat successful, in building fan interest in the ACAC, whose sports have been attended for years by mostly small crowds. Some growth in regional and national interest has shown in college-level championships, although crowds still remain far below the level of attendance for Canada’s national university playoffs.

The world is full of options

Alberta

Positive COVID-19 tests at world men's curling championship deemed “false positives”

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CALGARY — The four positive COVID-19 tests that interrupted the men’s world curling championship are considered “false positives” from potentially contaminated samples, according to the World Curling Federation.

The men’s championship concluded late Sunday night with Sweden’s Niklas Edin winning a record fifth world men’s title.

No games were played Saturday because four participants, including one from a playoff team, tested positive for the virus in “exit” tests before leaving Calgary’s curling bubble. 

None had symptoms of the illness.

All have tested negative in multiple re-tests since then, the WCF said Monday in a statement. All tests were conducted via PCR throat swabs.

“According to Alberta Health, PCR testing remains the gold standard for COVID-19 testing,” the WCF said. “Very rarely, there are occurrences through sampling or testing processes when samples may become contaminated and a false positive may result.

“Following an investigation over the weekend, it appears that this may have occurred in this case and follow-up testing was undertaken.”

All athletes and personnel considered close contacts of the four underwent testing Saturday with all results negative. 

Every playoff team member was tested before and after each game Sunday with those results also negative, the WCF said. Hotel staff were also tested Sunday and cleared.

“With the original four positive test results now deemed as false positives, the integrity of the Calgary bubble remains intact,” the WCF declared.

“The change also allows international athletes who were considered close contacts, and who would have had to remain in isolation in Calgary for 14 days, will now be able to depart Calgary.”

The fifth of seven events in Calgary’s curling hub, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, gets underway Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Pulling the plug: Edmonton Folk Music Festival cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

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EDMONTON — Despite Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s hope that the COVID-19 vaccine will allow summer events like the Calgary Stampede to go ahead, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival has been cancelled

The festival says in a statement that without full vaccination, people won’t be entirely safe from the spread of COVID-19. 

It says that with virus variants and an uncertain vaccine rollout, the impossibility of social distancing at the outdoor festival could lead to community spread.

Kenney has said that two-thirds of the population should have a vaccine shot by the end of June and things should begin to feel back-to-normal.

He says the Stampede, which is held in early July, along with sporting events and other festivals will be possible.

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival says it will continue to offer online content and, if small gatherings are permitted, it hopes to add some community engagement.

“With so many variables at play, the complexity of planning and delivering a festival of our size makes it impossible to move forward in our usual manner,” the statement said Monday.

“As profoundly disappointing as this news is, we believe this is the only safe way forward. The safety of our patrons, volunteers, and artists was of paramount importance in coming to this conclusion.”

The annual four-day festival in the city’s Gallagher Park usually attracts thousands of music fans and boasts approximately 2,700 volunteers.

Alberta introduced new health rules last week, closing restaurants to in-person dining and further reducing customer capacity at retail stores in response to rising COVID-19 numbers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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