P.E.I. sports and religious organizations react to Phase 4 announcement

Sport and religious organizations react to the news that Phase 4, which is expected to come into effect on P.E.I. on June 26, will allow for up to 50 people on the field or at a place of worship.

Phase 4 is scheduled to start June 26 with more people allowed to gather

David Henderson, general manager of Charlottetown Privateers Football Club, says they are excited to have a season before the fall. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Some sports organizations and religious groups on P.E.I. have mixed feelings about the announcement that Phase 4 of the province's ease-back plan is expected to begin June 26.

That would allow organized gatherings of up to 50 people, which would have big impacts on organized sports and religious gatherings.

"We're really excited that we may actually have a season this year," said David Henderson, general manager of the Charlottetown Privateers Football Club.

"Earlier, it didn't look like that was going to be possible at all so the advancement of Phase 4 is definitely a positive for us."

Henderson said they will continue to work with Island organizations and the Chief Public Health Office to ensure they are following the proper protocols for physical distancing and cleaning of equipment.

Henderson says they are still working with facilities to iron out all the details but are preparing their safety protocols with equipment and distancing. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

There are still details to be worked out around the sports fields themselves, Henderson said, but the easing of restrictions was great news.

"It's exciting news that we can actually look at the potential of having a season before school resumes in the fall."

More people allowed at religious gatherings 

Places of worship are only allowed to have 15 people at a time in Phase 3. Increasing it to 50 in Phase 4 would be an improvement, but for larger congregations that number still falls short.

"On a typical Sunday, if everybody came back, we have quite a few more than that. Usually 130,140," said Rev. Doreen Bird-Daley with Trinity-Clifton United Church in Charlottetown.

Rev. Doreen Bird-Daley says there will be meetings held with church officials to come up with a plan for how and when the churches may open up in the fourth phase. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said on Thursday that an invitation is being sent out to religious leaders in the province to start a discussion on the new guidelines.

Bird-Daley said that would be good to assist in other details as the church prepares for larger numbers. She said they are considering options like enhanced sanitation and staggered services, but some members may still decide to stay home.

"We've talked about this an awful lot at church council meetings and the difficulty will be when they come back to church it's going to be so different because again they can't shake hands or hug their friends," Bird-Daley said.

"It's going to be a very new normal when people do come back, and I don't know if everybody realizes that church is not going to be the same."

'Pretty excited'

Baseball requires more than the current limit of 20 people on the field to be played. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

For those involved in organized baseball, the increased number of people allowed on the field in Phase 4 will make it possible to play games again.

Randy Byrne, executive director of Baseball P.E.I., said he's happy about the announcement, especially "considering that probably two months ago there were real serious doubts as to whether we could have a season."

"The fact that we are able to play baseball games at the end of June — everybody is pretty excited about it to be honest."

Public health measures and adaptations will be required as part of a sport organization's planning during the pandemic. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

He estimates that 2,000 people will be registered to play baseball this year. There will be new rules in place to limit the number of people handling equipment as well as physical distancing.

"There's definitely a fair number of new rules for our games this year, designed on player safety," Byrne said.

"That being said nobody is too upset about them because they know that they are able to play baseball."

Sport P.E.I. has been assisting all Island organizations in coming up with plans to play under the public health restrictions.

'We just think that the benefit of being active through sport participation is quite excellent,' says Gemma Koughan with Sport P.E.I. (CBC)

Executive director Gemma Koughan said she is looking further into the details announced on Thursday. She said the organizations will be working on their own plans as well as dealing with facilities co-ordinators to ensure all public health regulations are being followed.

"I think we're all very grateful that we're in the position that we are right now and as a province and that we have kids and adults out playing, whether they're doing it in a structured environment under our sport organizations or they're doing it out at any park," said Koughan. 

"We just think that the benefit of being active through sport participation is quite excellent."

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With files from Brian Higgins and Steve Bruce