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Most rec facility group activities cancelled on Coast under new health order

Hockey practices, ice skating allowed to continue
Hockey is among the sports affected by a public health order announced Nov. 7.

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) has cancelled all indoor fitness and aquatic classes at its recreation facilities in response to public health orders issued by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Saturday.

The rules, which came into effect Nov. 7 and last until Nov. 23, require all businesses, rec centres and other organizations to suspend indoor group physical activities “that increase the respiratory rate,” according to a provincial website outlining the orders. Among the affected activities are hockey, volleyball, martial arts, group fitness, dance classes and yoga.

“Indoor group physical activities can only resume when the business has updated their COVID-19 safety plan and received plan approval from their local Medical Health Officer,” said the website, adding that group activities can be replaced “with individual exercise or practice that allows everyone to maintains a safe physical distance.”

As of Nov. 9, pre-registered drop-in swimming and fitness centre access is allowed and registration remains open, according to an SCRD update, but all indoor gameplay and “cohorts models” are suspended, including hockey games.

Aaron Hamilton, Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey Association (SCMHA) vice president, told Coast Reporter an operation plan is in place to continue practices while maintaining physical distancing

“We’re renting ice and operating as per the guidelines of the province,” said Hamilton, adding the organization had been coordinating with SCRD staff, while BC Hockey worked with the province on protocols to eliminate game play and return to skills practices only.

Kate Turner, SCMHA registrar, said the organization is returning to ViaSports’s Phase 2 guidelines and has “communicated increased safety measures to help mitigate the risks of COVID-19,” adding: “The safety of our members, as well as the ability to offer programming for the physical and mental health and well-being of our youth continues to be our top priority.”

Andrea Watson, president of the Sunshine Coast Skating Club, told Coast Reporter the order will not impact the club’s activities. “We will continue to follow the BC/YK protocols, ViaSport and the arena protocols. We have ambassadors to ensure social distancing is occurring as well as a daily screening health check,” she said.

CAO Dean McKinley told Coast Reporter the SCRD is still reviewing protocols and investigating options. More updates are expected this week.

That also includes how this could affect the potential reopening of the Gibsons and District Aquatic Facility, which directors will be considering at a an upcoming committee meeting on Nov. 12.

A staff report on that agenda recommends the SCRD launch an “accelerated restart plan,” that would see the pool opened “as soon as possible,” which the report indicated could be prior to the early January 2021 restart based on previous board direction.

McKinley said it would be premature to say whether the two-week public health orders would have any impact on that plan, since directors haven’t made any decisions, and it’s unclear whether the two-week timeline will be extended.

Indoor group activities at School District No. 46 (SD46), meanwhile, will be going ahead as usual, according to superintendent Patrick Bocking, who told Coast Reporter, “the order does specifically indicate that schools are not affected,” adding: “We have very stringent controls on who comes and who goes.”

Daily screening and other protocols remain in place at schools, said Bocking.

As of Nov. 9, Vancouver Coastal Health had not posted any exposure notices for SD46 on its “exposures in schools” website.

The orders also require workplaces to conduct “active daily in-person screening of all onsite workers” and workers must wear masks when appropriate and physically distance, with extra care taken in small office spaces, break rooms and kitchens.

The Town of Gibsons is continuing to encourage staff to work from home and pay extra attention to workplace safety protocols, and as of 2 p.m. Nov. 9, the municipality is making masks mandatory for the public at all Town-operated facilities, including Town Hall.

No changes have been made to workplace activity and counter service at the SCRD’s Field Road offices, save for “renewed emphasis on safety and protocols,” said McKinley.

The District of Sechelt has cancelled all non-essential bookings at its facilities and municipal staff are working with VCH to determine which bookings may proceed, communications manager Julie Rogers told Coast Reporter. Municipal Hall remains open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, and the usual rules still apply. “We will only allow drop-in visits with staff for five minutes. Masks must be worn. Longer meetings should be scheduled ahead and will be conducted by telephone or videoconference,” she said.

Business as usual is also moving ahead at the RCMP offices in Gibsons and Sechelt, including for the public, with online reporting options also available for less serious crimes.

However, “fingerprint requests by the public for non criminal matters will be suspended until November 23 or until the current order is lifted,” according to a Nov. 9 release.

At least one retail location has opted to close its doors in Sechelt in response to the order. The Sunshine Coast Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store is temporarily closed until Nov. 23.

In a Nov. 8 statement, the Ministry of Health said under the new order there are to be no social gatherings of any size with anyone other than your immediate household. That includes not only gatherings in your home, but also outdoors, at restaurants or at other venues.

Restaurants can remain open but guests must stick to a table with their own household members.

Going for a walk is not considered a social gathering, but people are being asked to be vigilant that a walk doesn’t turn into a group of people gathering outside.

More information about the public health orders can be found here:

– with files from the Canadian Press