More than 40 people gathered for the grand opening of the new Atlantic Tennis Centre in Bedford on Monday, but of those in attendance, only a handful stood six feet apart from one another.
Nova Scotia’s public health restrictions mandate physical distancing at social gatherings of more than 10 people who are not in bubbles together. While everyone in the crowd wore masks for the duration, some stood or sat side-by-side as the ribbon was cut on the multimillion-dollar facility.
“While we are pleased to see good mask use and some people physical distancing…we encourage those attending events to ensure they are maintaining a 6-foot physical distance from others who are not in their household or close social bubble,” wrote Nova Scotia Health Department spokesperson Marla MacInnis by email, after viewing a photo of the event.
The event was hosted by Tennis Canada and the Atlantic Tennis Centre, which worked with the municipal, provincial and federal governments for many months to secure funding for the facility.
It’s the largest regional training centre east of Montreal, with 18 courts, office space, strength and conditioning rooms, and inclusive programming space.
“This facility will draw tennis enthusiasts from across the country and around the world,” said Halifax West MP Geoff Regan, announcing a federal contribution of more than $3 million, on behalf of federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna.
“It will be a hub for the development and growth of tennis in the Atlantic Region.”
At the event, Regan acknowledged the “unprecedented times” created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of mask-use and physical distancing. But there did not appear to be anyone enforcing the physical distancing requirements in particular.
In a written statement, Tennis Canada said it limited the guest list for the event in order to comply with public health restrictions, and “numerous precautions were put in place at the facility to ensure social distancing, access to hand sanitization and mask-wearing were respected.”
“This is a fabulous example of provincial, municipal, federal, local, the association, the club — I mean the layers of complexity to get this to work are enormous,” said Tennis Canada’s Derrick Rowe, highlighting the teamwork required to open the new facility, while speaking at the launch.
Chantalle Aubertin, press secretary for McKenna, who did not attend the event, made clear expectations that “all events hosted by our partners and all Canadians” follow provincial public health advice, including physical distancing.
Provincial Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, who spoke at the launch, told Global News that because everybody wore masks and the building is “well-ventilated,” the amount of physical distancing was probably “okay.”
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said he thought people in the room distanced as much as they could, but “it’s incumbent on us in a healthy facility like this to make sure we keep our distance.”
The event took place as Nova Scotia announced its 15th active case of COVID-19 — the highest case count since June.
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