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How the Calgary Covid Bubble Saved Curling

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When the pandemic first struck in March, sports events around the world quickly started turning off the lights. March Madness, the most expansive collegiate competition was brought to a painful halt, and not even the skilled last-minute negotiations of colleges and the NCAA did anything to change the fact that the health crisis in the United States and the world has caused everyone to be extra cautious.  The NBA was the first to come up with a “bubble” that forced players to stop moving around the country and all flock to the same location, but the National Basketball Association in the United States was hardly the only one to come up with the bubble format. If anything, curling in Calgary also saw the formation of a bubble that proved particularly successful.

While NBA players reported exhaustion and mental toll, curling players seemed to be taking to the new format. Curling’s TV ratings went through the roof, something that may be attributed not just to the sport’s adaptability in Calgary but also to the fact that many sports were put on a temporary pause.  That is not to say that curling and Calgary do not deserve their due praise as the sport was preserved in a bubble format that proved lively and flexible enough to accommodate skyrocketing viewership and renewed interest in the sport.

Are Bubbles Good Formats in General?

So, does a bubble make sense in a sports context? That really depends. The NBA and NHL bubbles were accepted somewhat reluctantly, with players having to be away from home for months, and with just intermittent visits and extensive COVID-19 testing allowed in-between.

Calgary curling

Ultimately, these bubbles took a bit of a toll on players and they decided to never participate in such experiments. In late 2020 when the new seasons started, federations took notice and mostly did away with bubbles. Curling, though, has benefited to the fullest from the format and there seemed little detriment to players.  While the NBA was bound to happen because too much money is going into it, curling is clearly a less popular sport, but it was through the determination of players’ commitment that the sport and bubble were deemed safe and efficient once again.  Not only did women play a key role in establishing the bubble as a fair game for the sport, but did they also prove that the format is sustainable and can be done successfully to the benefit of players, viewership and the sports as a whole.  In other words, if a bubble is done right, it can prove a great way to sustain sport and ensure that interest in said sport mounts when others are struggling.

What Else Was New Around Curling?

Another influential factor about the sport is the fact that curling managed to gather a lot of momentum insofar as betting on curling goes. Many viewers discovered the experience to be ultimately satisfying, offering the opportunity to engage in numerous betting markets, including but not limited to:

  • In-person
  • Live
  • Proposition

Online sports betting can be very popular and curling is definitely one of the ways to make any sport out there very entertaining. Curling definitely was on the receiving end of heightened betting activity simply because it proved one of the most resilient sports when others were forced shut.  Nevertheless, curling fans discovered the opportunity to engage even further with curling even though many were new to the institution of sports betting. On the other hand, we saw a lot of traditional sports bettors who were new to curling embrace the sport and quickly learn all there was to learn about the sport.  The bubble’s success effectively led to a much greater interest in curling and that is fantastic news for anyone looking to enjoy the sport or has just discovered its captivating experience.

So, Did It All Work?

The pandemic was a horrible thing and there is no denying that. However, there was some good to take away from it. Less popular sports such as curling found a way to promote themselves to the very top of viewership experiences and they did so convincingly.  Players had a crucial role in pushing the sport and making sure that even people unfamiliar with it got to understand curling a little better. Of course, the real test for curling will be whether people still find it entertaining as the world returns back to normal. This is something that only time will show.

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Alberta bans masking mandates in schools, guarantees in-person learning

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Edmonton – The Alberta government says school boards can’t require students to wear masks in school or be forced to take classes online.

In a release, the government says it has made regulatory changes that guarantee students have access to in-person learning.

The changes also say that students cannot be denied in-person education by school authorities due to their personal decision to wear or not wear a mask.

Last week, the Edmonton public school board asked Alberta Health and Alberta Education whether it can require masks as schools deal with a wave of viral illnesses that is sending thousands of students home sick and straining hospitals.

Premier Danielle Smith says the changes go into effect immediately and will create an inclusive environment by ensuring personal and family choices are respected.

Smith has been critical of mask rules in schools, saying they have adversely affected the mental health, development and education of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Parents and students have told me time and time again that they want a normal school environment for their kids,” Smith said in a release Thursday. “We have taken steps to protect and enhance educational choice.

“Families are free to make their own personal health decisions, and, no matter what that decision is, it will be supported by Alberta’s education system.”

The government said the in-person learning change applies to grades 1-12 in all school settings, including public, separate, francophone, public charter and independent schools.

The masking change applies to those same grades and schools, but also to early childhood services.

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said the changes show the government doesn’t have a clue about what’s happening in Alberta schools.

“We know that respiratory illness outbreaks have been widespread this fall, causing intense stress and increased challenges for students, staff, and families,” Hoffman said in a release.

“School districts are struggling to staff classrooms as illness moves through students and employees.”

Hoffman said it is unrealistic to expect that school districts can staff in-person and online classes simultaneously with no additional resources.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2022

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Province encouraging Alberta Doctors to see more patients by lifting daily cap

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Improving Albertans’ access to doctors

To help increase patient access to physicians, there will no longer be a daily cap on the number of visits a physician can fully bill.

During the negotiations with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), Alberta’s government heard that Alberta’s doctors could safely see more patients than the current cap allowed.

Albertans want to know that they can see a doctor when they need one, and physicians want to be able to provide Albertans with the health-care services they need. By changing the daily cap policy, some of the immediate pressures for services provided by general practitioners and specialists, including pediatricians and ophthalmologists, will be addressed. By lifting the cap, physicians will be fully compensated for every visit rather than receiving a discounted rate if they provide more than 50 visit services in one day, which is the current practice.

“We’re moving forward to implement the new agreement, starting with ending the daily visit services cap policy and working to put rate increases in place. We’ve heard from some physicians that the daily visit cap was having a negative impact on patient access, so this change addresses those concerns. It is also part of the new agreement with the AMA where we are listening to physicians and working with them as partners moving forward.”

Jason Copping, Minister of Health

“The AMA agreement allows physicians and government to work together on challenges facing patients and physicians in the health-care system. This early step to remove the services cap is an important example that will allow more physicians to care for more patients while helping to stabilize physician practices.”

Dr. Fredrykka Rinaldi, president, Alberta Medical Association

Lump sum payment

The agreement between the AMA and the province also includes a one per cent rate increase in each of the next three years and a one per cent recognition lump sum payment in 2022-23.

Alberta physicians were at the forefront of the pandemic and the one-time payment for eligible practising physicians is in recognition of that work during the 2021-22 fiscal year. This lump sum payment is approximately $45 million and will go to the AMA to distribute to their members by the end of 2022.

In addition to the lump sum payment, the government is working with the AMA to implement the one per cent rate increase for 2022-23. The increase applies to fee-for-service and alternative relationship plan rates, providing an additional $46 million to physicians.

As outlined in the AMA agreement, the rate increase is heavily weighted to specialties facing the greatest pressures, such as family medicine. Alberta’s government and the AMA are working together to distribute these increases across and within specialties. Increases will be effective April 1, 2022, and are expected to be finalized by March 31, 2023.

Quick facts

  • The daily visit services cap policy was introduced as part of the Physician Funding Framework in 2020.
  • The intent of the policy was to support quality patient care by reducing physician burnout while addressing fiscal constraint for the province.
  • It applies to all physician services that are defined in the Schedule of Medical Benefits (SOMB) as “visits” with a “V” category code that physicians provide to patients in person, including physician office visits, consultations and counselling services. Procedures and tests that physicians provide are not billed as visits.
  • Under the current policy, physicians are compensated 100 per cent for up to 50 visit services billings in a day, 50 per cent for between 51 and 65 visit services, and there is no compensation for visit services billings greater than 66.
  • Physicians working in rural and remote areas, hospital visits and virtual care are exempt from the current policy.
  • The policy change (to lift the cap) aligns Alberta with most other jurisdictions.
  • Alberta Health is working on updating the SOMB and billing system to operationalize this change. A Medical Bulletin and a new SOMB will be posted when information technology changes are complete.
  • The daily visit services cap policy change will be reviewed and its impacts assessed before determining the future policy beyond the current fiscal year.
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