Stephane Millette, the recreation director with the Town of Hay River, stands in front of the Hay River Community Centre, which has begun reopening to the public from its closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

The second step is expected to begin this week on reopening the Hay River Community Centre to the public.

The Town of Hay River has submitted a five-step reopening plan to the GNWT.

“Some elements of the Hay River plan are approved, while others are still in review,” said Mike Westwick, manager of communications for the Covid-19 response with the Department of Health and Social Services, in a written statement to The Hub on Sept. 11.

Westwick said the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, which approves such plans, supports reopening some parts of the centre beginning this week, as set out in the town’s plan.

The Hay River Community Centre has been basically closed since March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stephane Millette, the recreation director with the Town of Hay River, said the municipality received a letter late on Sept. 11 from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer saying it could proceed with step two of the plan, which involves reopening the customer service desk, offering access to the walking track, afterschool programming, fitness programming, and a dine-in option at Sub on the Hub in the Community Hall.

“We’ve got a couple of details to hammer out before we actually open the doors,” he said on Sept. 12. “We’ll open this week.”

The town is awaiting approval for the other steps in its reopening plan.

“Step three and four would involve both ice surfaces,” said Millette, referring to the arena and curling rink.

The GNWT has received plans from a few communities and sport groups, like minor hockey and figure skating, he noted. “The word I got is they’re reviewing those together so that there’s consistency in the approvals that they give to different communities, because the plans are not all the same.”

Millette is pleased that step two has been approved for the Hay River Community Centre.

“I think residents are going to be happy to be able to come back and use the walking track and have afterschool programming and all that stuff,” he said.

The town had previously begun step one, which involved staff in the building, Sub on the Hub operating in the Community Hall, and some government rentals of the Doug Wieterman Hall and the Multipurpose Room.

If approved, step three would begin on Oct. 12.

Millette said that would involve reopening the arena ice surface and viewing area, along with reopening the curling rink, if the Hay River Curling Club is ready to begin its season on that date.

Step four, which would come into effect on Oct. 26, would mostly involve relaxation to some of the initial measures put in place for the ice surface and other spaces.

“So what we’re looking to is kind of go two or three weeks at a time, confirm that the procedures are working, confirm that there are no Covid cases from our reopening of the facilities and then just a relaxation of the initial measures as of Oct. 26,” said Millette.

That relaxation would be for things like the guidelines for using dressing rooms, and when players would be required to arrive before their games and leave afterwards.

Finally on Nov. 9, step five would see the reopening of the swimming pool and the Community Hall for meetings and private rentals.

“Throughout these steps, there are mitigation measures and restrictions, obviously,” said Millette. “What we’re looking to do is we’re looking to create bubbles within different spaces of the Community Centre. We’re looking to create those bubbles so that we can have safe use of those spaces and, if there were Covid cases within the community, then we would be having less of an impact on community spread and we could determine quicker what spaces need to be closed.”

The separate bubbles would be the curling rink, arena, pool and walking track, plus each meeting room and the Multipurpose Room would be considered its own bubble.

“We’ve got five main entrances, and we’re identifying what entrances which groups would be using,” said Millette. “Most of the entrances are for one specific bubble. There are a couple of the entrances that do access two of the different spaces.”

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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