City of Lethbridge officials say they can appreciate the public’s excitement over Stage 2 of Alberta’s relaunch strategy, but just because facilities like pools and fitness centres are allowed to open Friday doesn’t mean they will.
“It’s not a matter of the announcement being made and us being able to open the doors and open up facilities on Friday,” said Robin Harper, the city’s general manager of recreation and culture.
“There’s lots that we need to consider and put in place prior to that.”
Lethbridge’s director of Emergency Management — and fire chief — Marc Rathwell says he’s urging people to remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much alive.
“COVID-19 has not gone away. The virus is still out there. We still need to follow all the health orders that are in place,” Rathwell said.
Rathwell says the province accelerating the start of Stage 2 — and not giving municipalities a heads up — left the city with very little time to make plans to reopen facilities.
“As soon as the premier and Dr. Hinshaw come on, that’s when we get our notice,” he said.
“We’ve been asking — at times pleading — with the provincial operations centre group, Alberta Health and the province to share those details with us so that we could have some kind of prep time… but we receive no other information.”
Rathwell said the city doesn’t have any official timelines for the reopening of popular city facilities, but Harper said he expects the process to take a few weeks.
“We need to fill the pools, we need to heat it, we need to treat the water and make sure it’s balanced, we need to make sure that our operators have the staff back in place and are trained effectively in the new guidelines,” said Harper.
“So, I mean, I can’t put a firm date on it but I would say it’s at least a few weeks.”
The same approach is going is being taken at the Cor Van Raay YMCA.
Director of Communications Ross Jacobs says in a multi-use facility like the YMCA, adhering to multiple sets of guidelines can cause conflicts.
“The biggest challenge is the fact that we have a pool — with very clear limits on what can be in the pool — and a gym, and then again our multi-use spaces, and then some amenities within this are not on the public health order,” he said.
“There are portions of this building that we will not be able to re-open, and there’s an expectation that we’ll open the front doors and everything will go back to normal, and it just won’t be that.”
However, the early introduction of Stage 2 has allowed the YMCA to expand summer camp programming, which has officially been launched.
“The changes because of yesterday’s announcement are very positive, and give us more camp programming options we hadn’t previously been able to offer,” Jacobs said.
Stage 2 going into effect will allow larger cohorts of campers than under Stage 1, and will permit the YMCA to use more areas of its facility for camp programming.
But it also leaves questions about what will be left for members of the public who are looking to hit the gym.
“If we have 100 children in camp, that’s 100 kids automatically applied to the capacity of what this facility is allowed under the health order,” Jacobs said. “So what is left for the public?
“Finding those marriages between our camp programming delivery, and in turn, the public use of this space.”
Jacobs says the pool alone will take two weeks to get up and running, so the facility might still be three to four weeks away from what could be a phased reopening.
“I know when we had originally pre-planned… we needed a month,” he said, “so realistically, an early July time frame would not be unreasonable for us to say.”
Lethbridge remains under a local state of emergency, but according to city officials, without a spike in COVID-19 cases, that could soon be lifted.
“We’ll probably be able to exit this local state of emergency in approximately two weeks,” said Rathwell, who added that the city’s temporary homeless shelter must first be dismantled.
Rathwell also encouraged Lethbridge residents to take advantage of COVID-19 testing, now that it is available to anyone, even if they’re not exhibiting symptoms.View link »