The Pulse: July 20, 2021

Good morning! Here are some tips on how to stay safe and healthy while the special air quality advisory remains in effect for the Edmonton area.

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  • 19°C: Mainly cloudy with 60% chance of showers or thunderstorms. Widespread smoke. Wind southeast 20 km/h becoming light in the afternoon. High 19. (forecast)
  • 5 million: More than 5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered in Alberta as of Sunday. (details)
  • $13 million: It was a record-breaking year for the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation — with the 50/50 draw bringing in $13 million for charitable organizations in northern Alberta. (details)
  • July 22-Aug. 1: The Taste of Edmonton, which begins later this week, issued an urgent call for volunteers on Monday. (details)

Geoscapes chefs

Geoscapes returns to elevate more local chefs

By Sharon Yeo Sharon Yeo in the Food Roundup

Geoscapes, the brainchild of co-founders Kris Harvey and Trevor Lipton, is returning for a second series of special events.

Featuring guest chefs who prepare multi-course menus served up in transparent dining domes, the series runs from July 15 to Aug. 28. This time, Geoscapes has partnered with Snow Valley which is not only hosting the domes, but also a separate full-service patio and bar.

Geoscapes will highlight the food from eight chefs this summer. While there are some returning chefs from the previous event, including Shane Chartrand and Lindsay Porter, others are new to Geoscapes.

"We really wanted to represent Edmonton as best as possible," said Harvey. "We made sure we had representation from different communities and backgrounds, including women – we have amazing women chefs in Edmonton."

Chefs Mai Nguyen of Gourmai Dumplings and Eric Hanson (formerly of Prairie Noodle) are participating in Geoscapes for the first time; neither are currently working at restaurants, and Harvey is excited that guests will be able to enjoy their exclusive menus. Chefs Tony Le and Troy Griffith from Century Hospitality Group are also new additions and will be bringing their cuisine to the domed environment.

Harvey was also happy to invite Rub'd chef Calvin Tuefeld to the event. "We wanted to create opportunities for young chefs who are doing interesting things," said Harvey. "This event can also open doors for future generations (of chefs)."

Tickets for the event are $125 for adults, with a minimum of four people per dome. While Geoscapes did introduce the chance to purchase tickets for children at a discounted rate of $25, Harvey admits that the cost may exclude some diners. For this reason, Geoscapes worked with Snow Valley to create two more approachable outdoor experiences in Tito's Patio and Botanist Garden.

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By Michelle Ferguson Michelle Ferguson

AltaML at Student DevCon 2020

AltaML announces new collaboration to help students gain experience with AI projects

By Mack Male Mack Male in the Tech Roundup

AltaML has announced a new collaboration with Microsoft Canada and the University of Waterloo to provide training and mentorship to students participating in the artificial intelligence stream of the Waterloo Experience (WE) Accelerate program.

The 10-week program offers students the opportunity to tackle real-life projects supplied by partners. AltaML will lead a six-week module under the Microsoft Azure artificial intelligence stream for 80 students.

"Often, students don't get exposed to real-world AI projects and data sets until, in many cases, their first job," Celia Wanderley, chief customer officer at AltaML, told BetaKit. "AI isn't the future anymore; it is part of our everyday lives and AI literacy will be increasingly needed in jobs across all sectors."

With partners like Rogers and Health Canada, students will work on one of four projects, such as hockey analytics using computer vision or exploring digital public forums to measure sentiment using natural language processing.

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A bar graph showing the percentage change in seated diners in Edmonton in 2021 compared with 2019, with huge deficits through most of the year until June and July, where several days are now above 2021 levels

Chart of the week: Restaurants bounce back

By Jackson Spring Jackson Spring

Edmonton's restaurants have consistently seen more business this month than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

This chart shows the difference in seated diners each day in 2021, starting in February, compared to the same day in 2019, before any public health restrictions related to COVID-19 were introduced in Canada, using data from OpenTable that tracks the number of seated diners based on both reservations and walk-ins.

The industry has seen an average 27.8% increase in customers so far in July, compared to 2019. On July 1, the busiest day this year, there were 59% more diners than July 1, 2019.

At the start of February, restaurants were only allowed to operate for curbside pickup, takeout, and delivery, per a set of restrictions introduced by the provincial government towards the end of 2020. On Feb. 8, the government eased these restrictions as part of Stage 1 of its reopening plan, allowing people to dine in but with limitations.

This visibly coincides with a spike in seated diners on Feb. 8, though the numbers still remained below pre-pandemic levels.

Amid rising new COVID-19 cases, the province reintroduced some restrictions at the beginning of April, including a ban on indoor dining effective April 9, though patios were allowed to stay open. On April 8, the change in seated diners over 2019 was -5%, while on April 9, it was -83%.

In May, the provincial government changed its approach by targeting municipalities with high case counts, while relaxing restrictions for those with low case counts. Since Edmonton had more than 50 cases per 100,000 people, a ban on patios was introduced for the city effective May 9, effectively prohibiting all in-person dining once again.

These restrictions were partially lifted on June 1, narrowing the gap between 2019 and 2021 to -21%.

However, it was not until the province entered Stage 2 of its reopening plan on June 10 that restaurants started to see pre-pandemic levels of customers. The change in seated diners was above zero for the first time on June 11, at 4%.

When the province entered Stage 3 on Canada Day, restaurants saw the largest number of customers so far this year, and since then, the number of seated diners has been above 2019 numbers almost every day.

For more perspective on Edmonton's experience of the pandemic, check out our COVID-19 in Edmonton timeline.