Calgary Stampede competitors will need to have one shot of vaccine to compete for $1.5-million prize pool

Curtis Cassidy of Donalda competes in steer wrestling during the Calgary Stampede on July 15, 2017 Photo by Leah Hennel /Postmedia

Competitors at the Calgary Stampede will need to have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to attend this year’s rodeo.

Kristina Barnes, a spokeswoman for the Stampede, said that as part of the event’s modified quarantine plans, each competitor will need at least one shot, but two doses are preferred.

“The reason why it was one (dose) was because when we made the proposal, we thought the general community would only have one,” said Barnes. “All rodeo athletes, not just the international ones, will be required to have that vaccine.”

The federal government announced last week Stampede rodeo competitors and some support staff would be exempt from quarantine rules in place for the public when crossing the Canadian border, meaning they will be able to avoid isolating at hotels.

Barnes said competitors will have to monitor themselves for symptoms two weeks prior to coming to Stampede and they will be undergoing a daily testing regime while competing. She said they will have to remain separated from the public while in Calgary.

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“Once they cross the border, they will go to their secure facilities,” said Barnes. “They’ll go from that secured area, where they’re staying, and then they’ll come to Stampede Park and then they will go straight back.”

She said the infield at Stampede Park will be a secure location where they do not interact with the public.

Barnes said if any competitors test positive, they will have to go through all standard protocols to avoid spreading the virus.

No chuckwagon races, novice competitions this year

The rodeo itself will be a 10-day event as it has been in past years, however there will be no chuckwagon races or novice competitions this year, Barnes confirmed.

She said in past years, competitors would often come to Calgary for their initial runs, go to events south of the border and return for the finals later in the competition. This year, rodeo participants won’t be able to do any border-hopping.

“We can’t have that back and forth under our modified quarantine and testing plan,” said Barnes. “So some (competitors) potentially said no this year because of that.”

While the participant list has not yet been finalized, Barnes said they expect to see a “good mix” of Canadians and Americans competing, including former national and world champions. In past years, Brazilian competitors have attended the Stampede but Barnes said she doesn’t believe any will be in attendance for 2021.

“This year specifically, we probably have more Canadians than we regularly would just simply knowing that, you know, not as many Americans are able to cross the border.”

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Those that do make it to Calgary will be competing for a total of $1.5 million in prizes, split into $250,000 for each event, said Barnes. The total sum is down from around $2 million in past years.

“It’s still the largest payout of prize money In the PRCA season, except for of course the National Finals Rodeo, so it’s still a great payout,” said Barnes.

In terms of the rest of the Calgary Stampede, officials have repeatedly said they are committed to hosting a safe event. Barnes reiterated this during an interview on Thursday, saying organizers are committed to meeting and exceeding all Alberta Health regulations.

“Things like requiring all of our employees and volunteers to wear masks even if masking isn’t mandatory in public,” said Barnes. “We recognize that all of our community will be finding a different way towards moving back out into what is normal.”

On Thursday, it was announced that Nashville North, a mainstay attraction at the event, will be returning in 2021 with a canopy-style tent and lineup of 40 country music stars.

Kremlin blames vaccine hesitancy as Delta variant drives Moscow surge

The Kremlin on Friday blamed a surge in COVID-19 cases on reluctance to have vaccinations and “nihilism” after a record 9,056 new infections in Moscow, mostly with the new Delta variant, fanned fears of a third wave.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin extended restrictions he had imposed this month, which include a ban on events with more than 1,000 people, an 11 p.m. closing time for restaurants, and the closure of fan zones set up for the European soccer championship.

He had said earlier this week that the situation in the capital, home to 13 million people, was deteriorating rapidly.

“According to the latest data, 89.3 per cent of Muscovites (recently) diagnosed with COVID-19 have the mutated, so-called Delta or Indian variant,” the news agency TASS quoted Sobyanin as saying on state television.

Moscow accounted for more than half the 17,262 reported across Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Vladimir Putin was monitoring the situation closely.

Asked to explain the surge, Peskov blamed the virus’s “cunning nature” – a reference to its mutations – as well as “total nihilism, and the low vaccination level.”

At a briefing, he rejected suggestions that Russians were reluctant to have vaccinations because they distrusted the authorities.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, a member of the coronavirus task force, said in televised comments that 16.1 million Russians have been inoculated with both components of COVID-19 vaccines as of June 18.

She said that 19.7 million have got at least the first dose of the vaccines: at one-seventh of the population, that is far less than in most Western countries.

Golikova urged Russians to get re-vaccinated after 6 months from the previous vaccination.

She also said that the Russian government has decided “it was expedient” to resume flights to Turkey from June 22 amid the improved COVID-19 situation and oversight there, after restrictions had been introduced in May.

Flights to some other countries, including the United States and Belgium would also be resumed later this month, she added.

Central Election Commission head Ella Pamfilova said voting in this autumn’s parliamentary election would be extended, largely because of the pandemic, to run over three days, from Sept. 17-19, rather than one, the Interfax news agency reported.

Moscow authorities this week said anyone working in a public-facing role must have a vaccination, and on Friday they said anyone who had not been vaccinated would be refused non-emergency hospital treatment.

Sobyanin said it was now even vital to start administering further boosters – in effect, a third dose. He said he himself had just received a top-up, after being fully vaccinated a year ago.

The third doses being offered are a repeat of the first dose of the two-shot Sputnik V vaccine, he said.

Several Russian officials and members of the business elite, as well as some members of the public, have already been securing third and fourth doses of Sputnik V, Reuters reported in April.

The question of how long a vaccine offers protection against COVID-19 will be vital as countries gauge when or whether revaccination will be needed, and Russia’s findings will be closely watched.

Northern Sask. First Nation enters lockdown after COVID-19 outbreak

The English River First Nation emergency management team on Thursday declared a COVID-19 outbreak in the northern Saskatchewan community of Wapachewunak.

Nine cases have been confirmed, with some being a variant of concern, the team said in a statement on Facebook.

“This is making the situation far more critical because as we are seeing the virus is spreading easier and faster. It also hits suddenly and can hit younger people harder. We are trying to get this situation contained to prevent others from getting sick. We are strongly requesting that if you are a close contact to a positive case that for the sake of the community you stay isolated. We do NOT want to see anyone succumb to this virus,” the statement said.

“When there are multiple contacts as in this situation our ability to meet the needs of all those impacted can be a daunting task. We ask that you take this COVID-19 pandemic seriously.”

The team enacted a 48-hour lockdown in order for health staff to complete contact tracing.

The band office is closed and the health centre is open only for emergencies

All gatherings and events are postponed, including food sales

No visiting or inter-household visits

A curfew is in effect from 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Road monitoring and travel restrictions are in effect for two weeks

The team says COVID-19 is active in other communities in the region as well: 10 in La Loche; five or fewer in Beauval, Ile-a-la-Crosse, and Buffalo Narrows; and one each in Birch Narrows Dene Nation/Turnor Lake and Canoe Lake Cree Nation.

The Village of La Loche is reporting a 29.3 per cent COVID-19 vaccination rate, according to the community’s Facebook page.

That’s less than the provincial figure of 69 per cent of those 18 and older who have received a first dose.

“IF, we want to gather again (Treaty Days, Yanesa Days, Etc) and open up like the rest of the province, please get vaccinated,” the village’s post said.

All COVID-19 restrictions are slated to be removed across the province if the 70 per cent threshold is reached.

Biden promotes milestone of 300M vaccine shots in 150 days

U.S. President Joe Biden took a cautious victory lap Friday in his quest to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control, announcing that 300 million vaccine shots have been administered in the 150 days since he took office.

Biden credited scientists, companies, the American people and his whole-of-government effort on the milestone. The president noted that 65 per cent of adults have received at least one shot, setting the stage for most Americans to have a relatively normal summer as businesses reopen and employers hire.

“We’re heading into a very different summer compared to last year,” the president said. “A bright summer. Prayerfully, a summer of joy.”

But as Biden marks one milestone, he is in danger of failing to meet another: his target to have 70 per cent of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July Fourth, in a little over two weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 305 million vaccine doses had been administered as of June 1O. About 141.6 million people, or 42.6 per cent of the U.S. population, have been fully vaccinated.

The pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. has dropped significantly from a high of nearly 2 million per day about two months ago, jeopardizing Biden’s ability to hit the 70 per cent mark.

The White House said its whole-of-government approach to the vaccination effort has put the virus in retreat, which in turn has brought COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths to their lowest levels in more than a year. But Biden noted in his remarks that some communities in states with lower vaccination rates are seeing cases and hospitalizations increase.

The administration is in the middle of a monthlong blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and the lack of urgency some people feel to get the shots, particularly in the South and Midwest.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday that she expects the delta variant of the coronavirus will become the dominant strain in the U.S. That strain has become dominant in Britain after it was first detected in India.

During an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” she told Americans who get their shots that “you’ll be protected against this delta variant.”

As part of the administration’s vaccination push, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta on Friday to tour a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor until his assassination in 1968. The current senior pastor is U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

Harris also spoke at a COVID-19 vaccination mobilization event at Clark Atlanta University, a historically Black school.

The Biden administration insists that even if the 70 per cent vaccination goal is unmet, it will have little effect on the overall U.S. recovery, which is already ahead of where Biden said it would be months ago.

Biden wants to celebrate Independence Day as a “summer of freedom” from the virus.

Earlier this week, the White House announced plans to host first responders, essential workers and service members and their families on the South Lawn for a cookout and to watch the fireworks over the National Mall.

More than 1,000 guests are expected for what will be one of the largest events of Biden’s presidency.

Associated Press writers Josh Boak in Baltimore and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.