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WMC is familiar with reopening after emerging from its third lockdown

Harold and Cindy Klooster

While the region remains in the red zone, recreational facilities such as the Woolwich Memorial Centre in Elmira have the green light to resume providing services.

The province-wide stay-at-home order meant non-essential facilities were closed, the end of the lockdown sees a return to the limited services available prior to the Christmas holidays. That was welcome news to Woolwich recreation manager Jennifer Horndl.

“As we found out last Friday, our Waterloo Region is opening back into the red protocol, which will be almost identical to the protocols that we had in place in December.” 

Horndl estimates the centre laid off about 50 part-time employees, the likes of lifeguards, fitness instructors and customer service reps. Now, the WMC is bringing them back as programming resumes, albeit on a limited scale.

The most recent closure was the third at the WMC since the pandemic began almost a year ago. That experience has made the latest reopening smoother, she said.

“This is a little bit easier for us because we know what we’re going back to with the red protocols. We do have everything in place [such as] hand sanitizer, and staff are aware of the cleaning protocols – we have to disinfect and clean a little bit more rigorously and a little bit more regularly in between each program. But we’re coming at it with a bit of experience this time, so I’m hoping it’s going to go very smoothly.”

As was the case previously, preregistration is required to participate in the programs as well as a required COVID-19 screening, and a check-in/check-out system is in place to meet public health requirements for contact tracing.

Timeslots are generally booked on a 50-minute allotment, allowing staff to perform the necessary sanitization procedures after each session. The current framework allows just 10 people in a location, which has lead to staggered entry into the building between areas such as the walking track and the gym, for example.

Like many other fitness and community-focused operations during the pandemic, programs will continue to be offered in a virtual format in addition to the resumption of the in-person option.

“Our staff have been doing some great stuff on Facebook and YouTube and online with portals and we actually encourage the residents if they have any great websites or anything that they can send them to our staff, and we’ll add it onto our virtual page,” said Horndl.

Any expansion in the number of users is dependent on efforts to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases – an improvement  in the colour-code designation in the region would ease restrictions, she noted.

“We’re hoping that trend goes in the right direction and we go down to orange, which would allow us to kind of relax a bit. We could have scrimmaging with hockey again and things like that. But we’re also mindful of the numbers going the right direction or we may be facing further restrictions or another lockdown, which we hope doesn’t happen.”

More information can be found on the township website.

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