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Hay River could see looser COVID-19 rules for recreation spaces soon

Updates to Hay River’s occupancy restrictions in recreation facilities could be coming in time for the summer, despite delays to updates on the territory’s Emerging Wisely Plan.

Director of Recreation and Community Services Stephane Milette said in a council meeting on Monday that he had a verbal commitment from a representative from the Chief Environmental Health Officer’s Office — who helped make determinations about capacity restrictions in municipal buildings.

Milette said the commitments he received from the CEHO should set the town up well to meet demand for recreation spaces in the summer, as well as removing some restrictions like preventing patrons from using the showers in the aquatic centre.

Milette said firmer commitments on loosening restrictions would likely have come when the GNWT updated their Emerging Wisely Plan. That had been initially scheduled to happen in april, but was delayed because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Yellowknife.

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NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola said loosening restrictions would depend on how the third wave of COVID-19 and vaccine rates developed in the rest of Canada.

“We’re hoping that by the end of May, that is enough to bend the third wave,” she said in a press conference in May. “By that time, we anticipate that most of our active cases in Yellowknife will no longer be active and as summer nears, we should be starting to provide some relaxing restrictions.”

Kandola noted looser restrictions would be coming for outdoor recreation first before activities in indoor facilities.

“I do want to caution everyone that when the updates to Emerging Wisely are released, we won’t be snapping our fingers and returning to the way things were before COVID,” Kandola said in a press conference in April. “Now’s not the right time to do that.”

The majority of the COVID-19 cases connected to the N.J. Macpherson outbreak have recovered. The latest numbers showed no new cases in Yellowknife on Tuesday.

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Milette added that sports groups should be able to run their programs with the current rules in place.

“From discussions with our user groups, there doesn’t seem to be a need for anything to increase from last year’s allowances,” he said. “They seem comfortable that they can operate, according to those allowances.”

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