By Herald on November 14, 2020.
With new restrictions on social and public gatherings in place as of Friday, and with the mandatory cancellation of sports team games and fitness classes for at least two weeks, the provincial government is sending a strong message that COVID-19 cases need to start coming down in the city and region.
YMCA board chair Jillian Chaffee acknowledged the impact these restrictions are going to have on her organization in the near future with fitness classes (including aqua fitness) and gymnasium bookings temporarily halted.
“There is a slight impact, but overall the YMCA is still functioning,” she said. “The fitness facility is still open (for individual workouts), and we’re following the guidelines as set out by the provincial government. As such, we have had to pivot like we have been since COVID has started. Our employees, there has been no issue there– we are just redirecting them to other parts of the facility.”
Chaffee said they have closed their gymnasium at least for the weekend as they try to determine what the provincial government means by “team sports” in its temporary ban.
“It has been unclear what ‘team sports’ constitutes for a facility like this; so we are waiting for clarification from the government,” she confirmed.
Chaffee said the YMCA will adapt to this two-week ban, and roll with the punches; just as it has had to do since COVID restrictions first came down in March of this year.
“I think there have been fewer people using the facility (this year),” she acknowledged. “Overall, I think the facility is a great facility, families can still attend, you can still get swimming lessons … So from my perspective operationally we have done a really great job of understanding and implementing what is required to keep our members safe, and the public safe. And we will continue on operating as such.”
Lethbridge Soccer Association program co-ordinator Kristy Lauzon said the government-ordered suspension of team sports in Lethbridge for at least the next two weeks is a tough pill for all her members to swallow.
“We now have no kids playing soccer for the next two weeks, but I guess the saddest thing is we have had zero COVID transmissions with the indoor soccer program that started Oct. 3,” she said. “As of today, we still have zero transmissions within any of our teams.”
She predicted the stoppage would be hardest on the kids, who have come to see playing their sport as a safe haven from all the stress and anxiety going on in larger society at the moment. “Physical activity for kids is so good for their mental well-being, and with zero transmissions going on and we have quite the heightened sanitizing protocols, everything has worked out really well,” she explained. “It’s really disappointing that maybe a little more homework wasn’t done further before shutting down the indoor team sports at the Servus Sports Centre.”
Lethbridge Minor Hockey Association general manager Keith Hitchcock agreed with Lauzon.
“It’s not good news at all,” he said. “I was a little shocked by it because the angle I was hearing wasn’t going to affect sports, but as it got later in the day (Thursday) I started hearing rumours and releases that say we’re going to be shut down for two weeks.”
Hitchcock said it will be a “nightmare” to try to reorganize the season after this mandatory two-week shutdown because some communities fall under the ban and others don’t.
“The problem is it puts a lot of pressure on these leagues to make decisions now,” he said. “Do you reschedule? Do you rearrange your schedules to fit the teams that are still alive? Because in certain leagues, Medicine Hat, Taber, Olds, all these smaller towns get into these leagues and they can still continue to play. Whereas the elite leagues, the Triple A leagues, they seem to be on a more consistent shutdown because they are all bigger centres.”
Hitchcock said Hockey Alberta and Alberta Health Services have also put the kibosh on teams from communities that fall under the ban, like Lethbridge, from simply moving their games and practices to another jurisdiction which doesn’t.
“That was squashed by Hockey Alberta and Alberta Health Services,” he confirmed. “And rightfully so; I mean if we are being closed for certain reasons then why are travelling and basically throwing dirt at those reasons? I understand that, and that is the right decision to make. I am just hoping we can take a real hard look and find out ways we can not have this happen again, because if this happens again, or it doesn’t get reopened in two weeks, we’re in a lot of trouble as far as playing hockey down the road.”
Hitchcock said the onus was now on teams and parents to make the changes they need to make to address AHS concerns so hockey can move forward this year.
“If we can show numbers that are coming down, and there is some control, we hope we can reopen in two weeks,” Hitchcock said. “The other thing with hockey is it isn’t just playing the game; it is the social part of it. It is a very social network, and it is a very close network in certain teams and divisions. And that’s probably where some of the problems are coming from.
“I think we have to come in and play our hockey, and then go back to a safe spot,” he added. “The message is they (AHS) want the spread stopped, and shutting it down is breaking the chain, so to speak. I know we are angry with it or upset that we got shut down, but I think we need to understand they have obviously seen something.”
Hitchcock said the goal now is to avoid an even longer period of shut down by complying with public health orders and bringing local COVID cases down over the next two weeks.
“I want everybody to be safe,” he said. “I think it hurts for two weeks, but if we do the right things for two weeks we all want to come back healthy. And we all want to come back to the game of hockey, and hopefully it works for us.”
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