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PAB reverses mask policy

Town reconsiders its mandatory mask and proof of vaccination at Bruce II Sports Centre

Masks are strongly encouraged but no longer mandatory at the Bruce II Sports Centre in Port aux Basques. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press Incorporated

By Jaymie L. White

Special to Wreckhouse Press

PORT AUX BASQUES – On Tuesday Mar. 14, the majority of pandemic restrictions put in place by the provincial government to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, were officially lifted.

This included mandatory masks, proof of vaccination requirements, physical distancing, and capacity limits seen at numerous events and establishments. However, the government’s health authorities also stressed that personal public health measures are strongly recommended as the virus is not going anywhere and will be something the population has to learn to live with in the long run. While many businesses and organizations are following the government’s lead, some are choosing to keep their own mandates in place.

The Town of Channel-Port Aux Basques announced that same day that the Bruce II Sports Center would still require masks and proof of vaccination for those choosing to avail of the facilities, a decision that was rescinded less than 24 hours later.

Resident Ashley White admits that she was upset when it was first announced that the restrictions would remain in place at Bruce II.

“I’m all for the mask and the social distancing, but what got me was the VaxPass. The government is saying ‘go live life,’ and the town is deciding ‘No, at the Bruce Arena you must follow our guidelines.’ We are not in Alert Level 4 or 5. To me, there was just absolutely no need. We’ve all been listening to the government from day one, and now the government is saying ‘go on,’ and the town is saying ‘No, we can’t do that.’”

White said she believes it was the VaxPass and the boosters that really set people off, not necessarily the masks and social distancing, and that having these restrictions in place has caused many difficulties for people.

“I remember, I had my first booster, and I had to wait 14 days before I could enter that stadium. My daughter was in the first Toddler’s gym for the AIM Group (Autism Involves Me) and I couldn’t go in because I had to wait one day, because the government forced the booster on us.”

White said her daughter enjoyed the gym program, but as a mother, sitting outside and unable to tell if the screams coming from her child were happy or not was a very difficult experience, one that won’t have to happen again with the restrictions lifted, a decision she is very happy was made.

“You’re going to see some people that couldn’t go before that are going to go and enjoy it. Maybe there could be a couple of people that just found the mask to be too much. I know it’s still recommended, but you might feel safer yourself if you felt the mask was too suffocating. You might be able to feel a bit more at ease and if you feel like you have to take a breather, you can take your mask down a bit to take your breather. Most people still might wear their mask, but other people aren’t looking at you and your kid because your kid doesn’t have a mask on. Now there’s no need to explain. It’s nice to go out a bit more freely now and enjoy it.”

Mayor Brian Button said that the reason the town first left restrictions in place at Bruce II was because the policy they had in place was one adopted by council and in order to make any decisions, council would have to meet to either change it, rescind it, or drop the policy altogether.

“Tuesday morning, we had to put that we were still following the guidelines at our facilities that we had put in place as our own policy. It wasn’t the government’s policy. It was our policy. When the government was coming out with their policies, we adopted our own policy on our facilities on how we were going to do it. Yesterday afternoon (March 14) we were able to get together as a council to discuss it. We didn’t know if we would be able to do so because of people’s work schedules and we had a few councillors who were out, but we got together later that afternoon and had a discussion. And after that lengthy discussion we decided that we were going to follow the provincial guidelines that were put out, but we were going to have it that we would ask the public, when coming into our arena and those facilities, that we would highly and strongly recommend the wearing of a mask. You don’t have to but we are recommending it.”

Mayor Button said they made the announcement following the meeting that the town has dropped the mask requirement at the Bruce II Sports Centre, but it is a decision that will still need to be formally approved in council.

“We have made the motion in a special meeting to do it. We have announced that we have lifted the restrictions, but we still have to ratify it in a regular council meeting when we have our regular council meeting. That’s more of a formality, but we will still have to do that.”

Town Manager Leon MacIsaac, said restrictions are dropped, but there is one particular regulation still in effect – town employees must be vaccinated.

“There’s restrictions dropped, but the vaccination regulations are in effect until June 1, 2022, so that requirement has not dropped. That’s still required. That’s a provincial set of regulations and as of June 1, 2022, the provincial government will make a decision on whether to terminate it, extend it, or make another decision on it. But that falls with the provincial government. What we’ve done from the start, the town, has taken steps to make sure it meets and exceeds those regulations at all times. A lot of times people have disagreed with it, but towns take steps in the interest of protecting it’s residents, which is first and foremost.”

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