All Yellowknife’s swim club is waiting for before being allowed back into the pool is for the City of Yellowknife to submit a reopening plan for their recreational facilities.
“We’re basically trying to get our swimmers back into the pool so they can prepare themselves and get themselves up to par and ready if Canada Summer Games is up and running for the summer,” said Remy Leclerc, president of the Yellowknife Polar Bear Swim Club.
“Our plan has been approved and our plan is contingent on the city submitting their plan for their facilities to be reopened,” said Leclerc. As of Tuesday morning, the office of the chief public health officer (OCPHO) said the city had not submitted a plan for reopening recreational facilities.
“We are looking forward to working with them as we move forward – while it may not always end in approval, we are always, 100 percent ready to work with folks and have a healthy back-and-forth on how to potentially resume activities in earlier phases with the appropriate mitigation measures in-place. We know how much these activities mean to people,” said spokesperson Mike Westwick from the OCPHO in an email to Cabin Radio.
The territorial government’s Emerging Wisely document, which guides how the NWT will safely ease Covid-19 public health restrictions, only allows for pools to reopen in phase two for staff training, certification and facility preparation but not for recreational use until phase three. The NWT is not expected to enter phase three until after the second wave of Covid-19 has passed in Canada and the United States.
Leclerc says a late start to the swimming season means less time to get the swimmers back into the shape they were when the pool closed on March 18.
“They are going to have to work that much harder to get back up to speed and once the season starts you won’t be back training full out, you’re going to have to gradually reincrease their schedules for swimming. You won’t be able to do the two-and-a-half hours of practice that they were doing at the end of the season. We’re going to be starting at 45 minutes just to get your body back into shape and that way you don’t pull any muscles or tear anything.”
How does the GNWT decide when it’s safe to open pools?
Leclerc says swimmers and parents are annoyed that facilities in other provinces and territories had pools reopening in earlier phases while the NWT only allows them to reopen under phase three.
Westwick says the Emerging Wisely plan, which guides how the NWT will safely ease Covid-19 public health restrictions, is an “evidence-based plan” that used frameworks from Canada’s public health agency and the John Hopkins University.
“These frameworks include considerations like populations using a facility, potential crowding, environmental characteristics like humidity or indoor versus outdoor locations, the nature of activities – like whether there’s a ton of heavy breathing, for example; along with the ability to reasonably mitigate the risks while participating in an activity or attending a facility,” he wrote to Cabin Radio.
“This is then all processed through the lens of what our unique challenges are as a territory. In our case, the biggest ones are remote communities, a limited health system vulnerable to overload when outbreaks occur, and the fact our population does struggle with quite a few pre-existing conditions.
“Swimming and activities surrounding the pool lead to heightened respiratory secretions because of the heavy, forced breathing. Compounding this challenge is the fact we know very humid environments are notorious for increasing the transmission of those secretions.”
No NWT communities have submitted rec centre reopening plans
According to the Westwick, no NWT municipalities have submitted their plans for reopening recreational facilities.
“We have not received plans from other municipalities as yet, but have had initial conversations with staff from Hay River and Inuvik about opening plans for town facilities.”