October 24th, 2020

‘This isn’t over’: Caution urged as city begins to reopen


By Jensen, Randy on May 15, 2020.

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald

tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

The City of Lethbridge Emergency Co-ordination Centre has approved the opening of most amenities in the city, but will not be opening playgrounds and picnic shelters for the time being.

Director of Emergency Management Marc Rathwell made the announcement on Thursday that Lethbridge residents would be allowed to now use the disc golf course at Nicholas Sheran Park, the fenced dog enclosure at Peenaquim Park dog run, the tennis club at Henderson Lake, lawn bowling and bocce ball lanes at Ted Petrunia Park and Redwood Park, all skate parks, horseshoe pits, other outdoor courts for tennis, basketball and pickleball, as well as the mountain bike park in the river valley and local community gardens that have registered a reopening plan with the Emergency Co-ordination Centre.

Rathwell cautioned, however, these amenities could all be closed again if public safety orders were not followed or, even worse, Lethbridge experiences a spike in COVID cases because people were not observing physical distancing, group gathering restrictions or proper hand sanitization.

“What we really want to stress is these amenities can only be used if you are able to follow the public health orders,” he said. “No groups larger than 15 persons, physical distancing of at least two metres at all times, and, of course, washing and sanitizing your hands often.”

Rathwell said people had to self-regulate to ensure they are following these directives.

“We don’t want to go backwards with this,” stated Rathwell. “We want to follow the plans to make sure everyone is safe, and as Dr. Deena Hinshaw and the premier stated (Wednesday), if they see spikes in cases they will be putting on those restrictive orders again. So we are hoping we don’t take a step backwards. We want people to follow the plans they have put in place.”

On the subject of playgrounds and picnic shelters, Rathwell stated the province has said these things could be opened. But, in Lethbridge’s case, he had decided to keep public bans in place until the City could come up with a safe reopening strategy for them.

“A playground isn’t some place where we can go in after every child that has played on an apparatus, and sanitize it,” he explained. “We have to make sure all the information is out there for parents to make the right decision for their children and how they want to mitigate (the risks) for themselves.”

Rathwell reminded residents looking forward to the opening of local recreational amenities to not let their guard down.

“This isn’t over,” he said. “Everyone assumes because we have started a relaunch strategy in the province this has come to an end. It hasn’t. The virus is still out there, and people are still getting sick. We still have folks who are dying from this; so this is still an imminent threat to all of us.”

Having said that, Rathwell said he understood the sense of excitement felt by many within the city as amenities and businesses begin to reopen.

“With the relaunch happening it is a positive thing, and it is exciting,” stated Rathwell. “We want to see people get back out. We want to see businesses open. But, on the other hand, we want to make sure it is done on a very safe and methodical way so all the guidelines are appeased.”

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