What you need to know about Stage 2 reopening for pools, sports and recreation
As restrictions lift, exercising in isolation will soon be a thing of the past
For Albertans looking to burn calories with fellow fitness junkies after months of isolation, face masks, plastic barriers and copious amounts of hand sanitizer will become the norm.
On sports pitches and at public arenas, fist bumps, team huddles and cheering from the stands will be strongly discouraged.
Gym buddies and teammates will be asked to keep a safe distance.
Nearly three months since COVID-19 shuttered businesses across the province, Albertans will be able to sweat it out in public gyms, join their teams on community sports pitches and even take a dip in public swimming pools.
With the province set to enter Stage 2 of its relaunch strategy on Friday, indoor recreation, fitness and sport facilities — including gyms, arenas and pools for leisure swimming — are being allowed to open ahead of schedule, with restrictions.
And while the days of exercising alone will soon be over for those who choose to embrace the new freedoms, public fitness and sport will look markedly different in the weeks ahead.
What is allowed
Operators will need screening to make sure users don't have symptoms of COVID-19, haven't been in close contact with someone who is ill, and haven't returned from international travel in the last 14 days.
Facilities will also need to provide hand sanitizer at entry and exit points and have physical barriers between attendants and users.
The province is also allowing team sports to resume, with restrictions, for cohorts of up to 50 players from within the same geographic region.
Fitness and rec facilities
Alberta Health officials say, whenever possible, sports should be played outdoors, where the risk of transmission is lower.
For indoor recreation, facilities need to maintain proper ventilation and avoid casual use of overhead ceiling fans.
The provincial guidelines also say operators should use natural ventilation by opening windows and doors, if possible, and discourage the use of scents to prevent sneezing and coughing.
Masks are not to be worn during intense physical activities because there is some evidence to suggest that they could have "negative health effects," the province says.
Operators should try to space out booking times for facilities, have a buffer between different groups, and ensure sufficient time for cleaning.
People will need to maintain physical distancing of two metres in lobbies, change rooms and benches.
For high-intensity workout equipment like treadmills and elliptical machines, operators should consider installing physical barriers or have at least three metres of distance between pieces of equipment, unless the users are from the same household.
Weight machines and other equipment should also be rearranged to promote physical distancing.
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Facilities should set up special areas for certain activities like stretching or using kettle bells, and use tape to guide the flow of people to prevent crowding.
If spotting is required for weightlifting, participants can form small cohort or bubble group to limit direct contact with others.
For some activities, participants will be encouraged to bring their own equipment. Rental equipment will need to be assigned to one person and disinfected before and after use.
Team sports will be able to play again in Stage 2, provided there aren't more than 50 people involved and everyone is from the same geographic region. The 50-person cap includes participants, officials, coaches and trainers.
Two metres of physical distance will still be encouraged wherever possible, especially during intermissions and on benches.
Group celebrations like handshakes, high fives, fist bumps and chest bumps are discouraged.
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To support contact tracing, operators are encouraged to collect attendees' names and contact information. Providing the information is voluntary for attendees. Organizations must obtain consent to collect information and must make sure it is protected. It can only be kept for two weeks.
Spectators are expected to maintain two metres of distance, unless they are from the same home or cohort. They are encouraged to wear masks and avoid cheering.
"Cheering and yelling is strongly discouraged at this time as it presents a high risk of spreading droplets," the guidelines state.
Swim classes and aquatic sports as well as drop-in and public swimming will be permitted in Stage 2.
Pools can operate with a maximum of 100 people, as long as two metres of physical distancing is maintained.
Masks are not to be worn in the pool, though they may be worn on the deck or in other parts of the facility.
Operators are encouraged to stagger times for practices, lessons and laps and find ways to have as much physical distancing as possible for swim lanes.
"Consider possibly alternate lanes, or having swimmers use middle of the lane only and return by the adjacent lane. If swimmers need to pass, they must maintain a two-metre distance," the province's guidelines say.
Pool leisure features like lazy rivers, water slides and wave pools can reopen in Stage 2.
Whirlpools, hot tubs, dry saunas and steam saunas will remain closed until Stage 3.
Not so fast
Even though facilities can open, not all facilities will reopen right away. The City of Edmonton said in a statement Tuesday it plans to "review reopening plans against our current realities."
Playgrounds and some sports courts re-opened last month but it's not clear when or how city-run facilities in Edmonton like recreation centres, arenas, indoor pools and libraries will reopen.
"The reopening of facilities is very complex and given the financial impacts of the pandemic, some services will not return this season," city spokesperson Kris Berezanski said in a statement.