Choirs, sports and rec activities resume on P.E.I., but struggle with restrictions
'It is daunting to have my rehearsal decisions have life or death consequences for people potentially'
As Prince Edward Island ended its two-week circuit breaker on Monday, some sports and recreation program providers say they're struggling to adapt to loosened restrictions.
As of Jan. 31, P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office allows sports teams to practise and recreational activities to happen without masking and physical distancing for groups of up to 20 consistent individuals.
Nick Murray, the executive director of the Island Gymnastics Academy, said he's glad to have gymnastics back but finds the CPHO's guidelines difficult to work with due to a large number of participants.
"That is the big question, because we have a number of preschool programs and recreation programs who only come once a week, and they have bigger numbers," Murray said.
"So we're having to sort of wrestle with whether we can get them in, or have to change the schedule a little bit."
Scheduling has been "daunting" for him, he said. However, parents of academy members have been understanding.
"People have been good, they've kept their registrations with us, we haven't had to refund so much," Murray said. "Trying to fit everybody back in, it's going to be a challenge but we'll find a way. People have been patient."
Prior to the two-week circuit breaker that began on Jan.18, sports and recreational activities were put on pause from Dec. 17 to Jan. 8 in response to Omicron variant COVID-19 cases on P.E.I.
Those restrictions have taken a toll on his gymnasts, Murray said.
"It's been significant on a number of areas for sure, a lot of these kids are used to training for 12, 14, 16 hours a week and certainly to go from that to nothing [causes] serious consequences for their training."
Katie Gaudet, a gymnast at the Island Gymnastics Academy, said it's really hard to get back into gymnastics after several breaks in training.
"Gymnastics is such a great sport for my mental health," she said. "As well, it is difficult to be stuck at home all the time, not being in the gym."
Throughout the pandemic, she has had a lot of practices over Zoom, she said.
Gaudet is concerned about the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on P.E.I.
"It's definitely a pressing thing on my mind all the time," she said. "I am always worried, I live with my mom and my grandmother so I have to be careful of where I go or what I do so I don't bring it home."
While schools reopened Monday, community groups still aren't allowed to use school facilities like school gyms. The Public Schools Branch says those groups put added pressure on school staff and cleaners, who are focused now on getting kids back to school safely.
Josh Whitty, Basketball PEI's executive director, said their programs will likely not happen because their program is dependent on community gyms, of which there aren't many on the Island.
Whitty said this is disappointing for athletes and coaches.
"We have some very big clubs, we have some smaller clubs in rural communities as well," he said. "When you total them all up, you're probably getting close to a thousand athletes that are being held out right now, not being able to participate."
Spacing an issue for some choirs
Margot Rejskind, who directs three choir groups in Charlottetown, said she's glad to see churches reopen, but spacing is a challenge for choir groups under new restrictions.
"The real thing is the spacing. If everyone's six feet apart, then Island Choral Society takes up most of a church all by itself ... It does make you think, 'Gosh, can we perform,?'" Rejskind said.
She said they're taking their precautions very seriously.
"We want to be safe, we want to be careful, we want to limit exposure. We want to have those six feet between people because what we don't want is to be a superspreader event on the news," Rejskind said."
"It is daunting to have my rehearsal decisions have life or death consequences for people potentially. That's something I really have to think about. I don't want to ever go back to a rehearsal and miss faces that may not be there because something happened."
with files from Steve Bruce