As British Columbia carefully works its way into Phase 3 of its four-stage COVID-19 reopening plan, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is following suit in regards to local facilities and programming.
At its June 23 meeting held over Zoom, council opted to support a number of safe reopening strategies for municipal buildings and services.
Some, like municipal hall and the Whistler Public Library, are already open to some extent.
For others, like the popular Meadow Park Sports Centre (MPSC), the approach will be more complicated.
The multifaceted nature of the building makes its reopening complex, explained general manager of corporate and community services Ted Battiston at the meeting.
“There are pinch points in the building—corridors, hallways, change rooms,” Battiston said.
“We’re looking at using a number of different access doors, different doors into the pool area rather than coming through the front door. It is a complex building. There are a lot of variables.”
A draft reopening plan for the MPSC builds in flexibility and scaling of services to meet changing directions from health authorities should COVID-19 transmissions swing for better or for worse during the phased reopening.
For example, limited arena bookings (for designated user groups) and outdoor fitness classes could return in early July, while limited fitness centre use and one-on-one indoor personal training are slated for mid-August.
Things like public skating, indoor fitness classes and group bookings could return in mid-September, with drop-in hockey potentially coming back in early October.
“We have our staff working hard on this,” Battiston said. “This has been obviously their focus for the last number of weeks, [and] it will continue to be their focus as each one of these comes on board.”
That being said, the timelines in the draft reopening plan for MPSC are targets, not given dates, said Chief Administrative Officer Virginia Cullen in a presentation to council.
“These could be sooner or later, it just depends on how we go with the facility opening, and whether or not there’s any change in direction from health authorities should conditions improve or worsen,” Cullen said.
“So this is our best estimate as it is right now, but it will continue to evolve as we move forward in time and we will be communicating that as we go.”
While B.C. entered into Phase 2 of its four-phase COVID-19 restart plan on May 19, the timing for shifting into Phase 3 is less clear, according to a staff report to council, which noted that Phase 3 is “defined as taking place June through September if transmission rate remains low or in decline.”
Nevertheless, all municipal facilities need appropriate health and safety protocols in place before reopening, which has been a work in progress at municipal hall.
Safe work procedures have already been developed for municipal hall, the library, the wastewater treatment plant and more, while plans for Myrtle Philip (children’s summer programs) and the MPSC are still being worked on.
The RMOW will also be looking at increasing services at the library as Phase 3 begins, Cullen said.
“This will include limited in-person use of the facility, and [increasing access] stepwise as we are able to bring on more staff and ensure that physical distancing measures are in place,” she said.
“There will also be potential computer access as well as considerations for vulnerable populations as we do this.”
As for in-person council meetings, the RMOW is talking with staff at the Maury Young Arts Centre (MYAC) about how to bring them back, Cullen said.
“The proposed target with this is September to coincide with MYAC opening to the public, and also to make sure that we’ve got our staff resources focused on the library and the rec centre requirements in July and August,” Cullen said.
Further to the question of staff resources, a budget amendment will be brought forward at an upcoming meeting that will consider which of the 224 casual and auxiliary staff laid off in March “will need to be brought on again so that we can open our facilities,” Cullen added.
Throughout the reopening process, if any municipal staff members test positive for COVID-19 or are showing symptoms, the RMOW will be alerting anyone they came in contact with, “and more than likely we would be asking those people to self-isolate, depending on the person’s symptoms,” said director of human resources Denise Wood.
Further, RMOW employees with COVID symptoms will receive regular pay up until the time they’re tested, Wood added.
“If their test results come out that it is not COVID-related, then they would go onto their regular sick pay or without pay if they do not have sick time,” she said. “But if it is COVID then they continue regular pay.”
Read more at whistler.ca/saferestart.