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Edmonton to reopen rec centres as EXPO centre being considered as COVID-19 vaccination site

Click to play video: 'Some City of Edmonton rec centres to re-open for low intensity activities' Some City of Edmonton rec centres to re-open for low intensity activities
City of Edmonton manager Andre Corbould details the fitness facilities that will begin reopening on March 5 to allow for low-intensity fitness activities. – Mar 3, 2021

The City of Edmonton will gradually reopen recreation centres over the next two weeks, after some COVID-19 health measures were eased by the province earlier this week.

City manager Andre Corbould made the announcement during Edmonton’s emergency advisory committee meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The city will offer dryland, low-intensity individual and group fitness — including stretching, walking, yoga and pilates, as well as expanded training opportunities — at the city’s five rec centres.

The Kinsmen and Commonwealth rec centres are scheduled to reopen on March 5; Terwillegar and The Meadows will reopen on March 10; Clareview rec centre will reopen on March 15.

Read more: $1.5M Edmonton housing grant aims to turn problem properties into affordable housing

The move to reopen rec centres means about 140 part-time and full-time staff members will be recalled from temporary layoff notice.

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Click to play video: 'How will city employees enforce exercise intensity at rec centres?' How will city employees enforce exercise intensity at rec centres?
How will city employees enforce exercise intensity at rec centres? – Mar 3, 2021

The city said the strength-training areas of the rec centres will be open and signage will be posted with guidance on what constitutes low-intensity activities versus high-intensity activities.

One-on-one personal training opportunities will also be offered.

Anyone visiting a city facility will be required to reserve a time slot through the city’s Move, Learn, Play website. Drop-in visits are not permitted.

The city said three metres of physical distance will be required between facility users.

Read more: COVID-19: Low-intensity indoor fitness allowed as Alberta ‘cautiously’ enters Step 2

Aquatic facilities will remain closed. Corbould said the city will reassess this decision ahead of Step 3 of the province’s “path forward,” which focuses on easing COVID-19 restrictions based mainly on hospitalizations. Other factors are considered when it comes to easing restrictions, including the R value, positivity rate and daily case counts.

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Alberta entered into a revised version of Step 2 of its “path forward” on Monday.

Restrictions were further eased on indoor fitness, with low-intensity activities allowed to take place.

Click to play video: '‘If you’re out of breath, it’s high-intensity’: Alberta health minister on COVID-19 fitness restrictions' ‘If you’re out of breath, it’s high-intensity’: Alberta health minister on COVID-19 fitness restrictions
‘If you’re out of breath, it’s high-intensity’: Alberta health minister on COVID-19 fitness restrictions – Mar 2, 2021

Edmonton public libraries to reopen March 15

Under Step 2 of the province’s relaunch plan, libraries were also allowed to reopen at 15 per cent fire capacity.

EPL announced it will reopen its doors starting Monday, March 15.

Libraries will offer limited in-person services such as browsing the shelves, seating, computer access, membership and information services, printing, photocopying, faxing and more.

Library takeout service will continue to be available.

EPL said the McConachie and West Henday Promenade (Lewis Estates) locations will remain closed.

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Read more: Gym owners responsible for Alberta’s COVID-19 high-intensity rules, no ‘out-of-breath’ workouts

Edmonton Expo Centre possible vaccination site

Corbould also announced that the Edmonton Expo Centre is being considered as a possible rapid flow-through COVID-19 vaccination site.

“The ‘when’ of that will be up to the province as part of their rollout of the vaccination,” he said. “This is contingency and preliminary planning at this point and the idea is that, when there’s a lot more vaccine to get out to Edmontonians, we would be prepared to help with these rapid flow-through sites.

“I think you’ll see a lot of what you saw with the testing activities earlier on in the pandemic when we rolled out testing for folks to go to these sites. So it would be a very similar piece in terms of logistics. The idea there, you can have good social distancing and get people through to get their vaccinations as quickly as possible.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton EXPO Centre offered up for vaccination site' Edmonton EXPO Centre offered up for vaccination site
Edmonton EXPO Centre offered up for vaccination site – Mar 3, 2021

Last week, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province is planning large, flow-through immunization clinics as the province continues its vaccine rollout plan. Shandro said the sites would open based on supply and demand for vaccines. No further information about which sites are being considered was released by the province.

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Read more: Alberta COVID-19 vaccine booking site experiences ‘very high volumes’ as appointments open to those 75 and older

The City of Edmonton said the current conversations with the province and Alberta Health Services are currently focused on being ready if there is a requirement for a surge vaccination site. The city is already looking into ways to be ready to make it happen, if asked.

“It’s also, in addition to having lots of parking, on transit for folks who don’t have access to a vehicle,” Mayor Don Iveson said. “It’s really ideally situated and a really easily repurposable building for a variety of different things including this. That said, if it was desirable to establish multiple sites in addition to a large central one like that, I think our message is: we stand by to assist however we can that is of service to rapid deployment of the vaccine.

“We’re very eager to help in the mass rollout of the vaccine any way we can.”

Proposal to keep Edmonton Convention Centre open through April

The temporary shelter accommodations at Edmonton Convention Centre — Tipinawâw — opened at the end of October.

Tipinawâw is being run by the city, Boyle Street Community Services, The Mustard Seed, Bissell Centre and the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society. It was initially expected to remain open until March 31.

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Read more: Alberta budget: Edmonton mayor ‘confounded and disappointed’ with province on supportive housing

Earlier this week, a city committee recommended the temporary 24/7 housing remain open until April 30. The recommendation, which includes a $2.2-million funding boost, will go to city council Friday for approval.

Corbould said Wednesday that planning is underway on alternative locations to replace temporary shelters.

Will the city host summer festivals?

When it comes to summer festivals in Edmonton, Corbould said decisions on whether these events will be allowed will be made based on a number of conditions, rather than a calendar-based timeline.

Corbould said the conditions include:

  • Bylaw compliance
  • Provincial restrictions in place at the time
  • Percentage of the population that’s vaccinated
  • COVID-19 hospitalization numbers
  • Percentage of new COVID-19 cases
  • Travel status and restrictions
  • Transit ridership capacity
  • Cultural institutions are open (museum, art gallery)

COVID-19 enforcement

Compliance of the city’s face covering bylaw remains high at about 98 per cent.

The city’s most recent enforcement numbers show nine tickets and 96 warnings related to the city’s temporary face coverings bylaw were issued between Feb. 22 and 28, 2021.

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Since the bylaw came into effect on Aug. 1, 2020, 353 tickets and 5,707 warnings have been issued in Edmonton.

While city peace officers no longer have the authority to issue tickets for violations of orders under the Public Health Act — such as physical distancing and restrictions on businesses — the city said its enforcement officers will continue to work with Alberta Health Services and the Edmonton Police Service when issues arise.

Read more: No timeline to reinstate authority for some Alberta peace officers to enforce COVID-19 orders

The city said it is seeking an extension for city peace officers to keep their enforcement authority.

Edmonton’s COVID-19 case count

Active cases of COVID-19 have risen in Edmonton over the past couple of days. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 1,054 active cases in the Edmonton zone, 863 of which were within the city itself.

As of March 2, there were 180 confirmed variant cases of COVID-19 in the Edmonton zone. Of those, 178 are the B.1.1.7. variant, which was first discovered in the U.K. The other two are the N501Y.V2 variant, which was first discovered in South Africa.

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