BARRHEAD- The Town of Barrhead has decided that it will not ask residents to provide proof of vaccination before entering and using its indoor recreation facilities.
What that means is the municipality's indoor recreation facilities and the Agrena, the Barrhead Regional Aquatics Centre, curling rink and Blue Heron Bowl will be limited to one-third of their fire code occupational capacity. The swimming pool's fire code occupational capacity is 573, while the Agrena's is 1,400, with their one-third capacity limit being 191 and 466, respectively.
Chief administrative officer Edward LeBlanc said he made the decision after meeting with recreation staff.
"We reviewed it, but upon reflection, we decided against going forward with the restriction exemption program," he said.
Last week the province announced a series of new public health restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19 infections and to help alleviate the strain on Alberta's health care system, specifically its intensive care unit (ICU) capacity.
"We learned about the health restrictions at the same time everyone else did," he said, adding that as a result, they had to do some scrambling.
It should be noted that although the curling rink and the bowling alley are municipally owned, they are operated independently by two not-for-profit societies.
However, under the new public health restrictions announced on Sept. 15, adult indoor group fitness or activities are not permitted starting Sept. 20. Adult one-on-one sessions are allowed as long as three-metre distancing is maintained.
Indoor youth group classes and activities are allowed under the new restrictions, but participants are required to screen for symptoms, maintain two-metre distancing, and wear masks when not engaged in physical activity.
In a Sept. 17, media release, Town of Barrhead mayor Dave McKenzie said they made the only feasible decision.
“ Reducing recreation facilities to one-third fire code capacity will not only be the most efficient option but the most cost-effective,” he stated. “Facilities such as the curling rink and Agrena do not have a reception desk. If selected, the Restriction Exemption Program option would require the town to acquire more staffing to screen patrons, which we cannot accommodate.”
Barrhead Public Library
For the most part, director Elaine Dickie said the revised public health restrictions will not change the library's day-to-day operations.
Like the town, the library decided not to go forward with the province's restriction exemption program and as a result, they will be limited to one-third of their fire code occupancy limit.
Due to the province-wide masking mandate, the library already requires patrons to wear masks, Dickie said.
"We also ask them to maintain 'adequate distancing' … and remind them when they come in to wash their hands. None of that is going to change," she said, adding the chances of the library being in danger of going over the one-third occupancy limit are slim to none.
"We have not regained our usual numbers of people who come into the library since the start of the pandemic, so we are well within that one-third," she said.
It should be noted that the library is in the same building as Barrhead Elementary School (BES) and as such, students and classes occasionally use the facility. However, they are not counted towards the one-third occupancy limit.
To limit the possibility of potentially reaching and going over the occupancy limit, Dickie said the library is limiting the number and types of programs it runs.
For instance, she said, their pre-school programming, is now being held on a drop-in basis at specific times, with a maximum of six families allowed.
"They can come and look at the books, watch a video, a few toys will be out for the kids to play with and we will give them a craft kit to take home," Dickie said. "We are encouraging them to come, but limit their time and not engage with other families."
Dickie added staff are careful not to schedule a program when a BES class uses the library.
As for BES students, Grades 3 to 6 may use the library, but only at their scheduled times. Students must wear masks while in the library.
Although under the new rules, masking is required for students starting in Grade 4, the library made an agreement with the school that masks would be required for Grade 3 students as well.
For Kindergarten to Grade 2, books are delivered right to the classroom.
Due to the changes in restrictions, the library also had to tweak their Sept. 25 Alberta Culture Days event.
Alberta Culture Days is an annual celebration of arts, heritage, diversity and community spirit that typically takes place in late September at dozens of sites around the province.
The event will be at De Herdt’s Garden Centre from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will feature displays from area artists.
"We were very fortunate De Herdt's has allowed us to use the back of their greenhouse giving us lots of room to distance," Dickie said.