By Lethbridge Herald on June 10, 2020.
While the province announced on Tuesday municipalities would have the go ahead to accelerate the relaunch of the economy by opening more facilities and amenities earlier than previously planned, the City of Lethbridge will continue to take a slow and steady approach, said Director of Emergency Management Marc Rathwell.
“We want the community to understand very clearly that COVID-19 has not gone away,” he said. “The virus is still out there. We still need to follow all the health orders that are in place; so physical distancing, and when you can’t stay physically distanced, that’s an appropriate time to use a mask. It’s important. Handwashing, really important, continue with that.
“We don’t have a lot of physical timelines for when a lot of our structures will be opened,” Rathwell added. “We are making sure we have our guidelines from the province and making sure we can apply them all safely for staff and customers.”
The province did give the go ahead to reopen swimming pools and arenas by Friday, but it’s not as simple as turning on the lights and unlocking the doors, confirmed City of Lethbridge general manager for Recreation and Culture Robin Harper.
“Our City Recreation and Culture Department is currently working with our stakeholders to understand all the details of those announcements (on Tuesday),” he explained. “We really want to manage the city’s expectations when we start to look at reopening here. Even though we are really excited, and the community is really excited about that possibility, the reality is strong restrictions are still in place.”
There are similar complications with arenas and other facilities where people would be in close contact with one another, he confirmed, with the need for new signage, new cleansing procedures and group numbers restrictions still in place. The City will also have to rehire staff they had previously laid off and retrain them on proper public health procedures, Harper added. He expected it would be at least another two weeks before some of these amenities could be reopened.
“We don’t have any firm dates as to when we will be opening those facilities, but we are going to be working with our stakeholders and users to make sure we can open them as soon as possible and in a safe manner,” Harper stated.
Rathwell also reminded Lethbridge residents to continue to follow public health guidelines in every facet of community life.
He encouraged everyone who can to sign up to get COVID testing done, even if they do not currently have symptoms, and particularly those who attended large anti-racism rallies in the city this past week. Appointments can be set up through the Alberta government’s website.
“For people who were at the protests Dr. Hinshaw has strongly suggested you go down and get swabbed, that you do the COVID testing,” he stated, referring to Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. “They are doing asymptomatic testing now; so if you were involved in the protests where you would have been closer to individuals than what we’re suggesting, please go down and get swabbed.”
The province also accelerated the opening of casinos, fitness facilities and movie theatres.
Rathwell encouraged all businesses thinking of reopening in the next few days to send in a reopening plan to the Alberta government’s Biz Connect resource to ensure they are following public health orders.
“The City has no influence or power in terms of private business,” he said. “They have to connect with Biz Connect, that is the piece they have set up through the province for people to look at the guidelines, look at the health orders, and apply that to their business.”
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