MORRISBURG – While many activities have been curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, area curlers have been able to return to the ice sheet at the Morrisburg Curling Club this fall thanks to the efforts of a small group of volunteers.
The MCC formed a COVID-19 committee to look at how it could begin the 2020-21 season and keep the sport going.
“There were a lot of guidelines to go over from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit and the Ministry of Health,” said Wendy Casselman, one of the members of the COVID-19 committee.
The five-person group broke down what they needed to do and set up a comprehensive system of logs, cleaning routines, and modifications needed to restart the sport.
“Our main goal with all this is the safety and the protection (health wise) of our curlers,” Casselman said.
The volunteers looked at every part of how curlers interact in the rink and tried to mitigate any safety risks there could be. The basement change room area is closed off this season, but a physically-spaced out area on the main floor has been set up for curlers to change their shoes, and of course sanitize.
Tables in the balance of the lobby are also spaced to allow for distancing and limited to just one team per table, with enough tables for the next matches.
Games have staggered start times so teams for all three sheets won’t arrive or interact together. Because of the staggered start times, the ends alternate for the most part and allow for physical spacing between the games in the rink.
It is still curling, but curling in a pandemic is different than before. The sport has adopted changes to how the game is played to allow for physical distancing. For example, there is only one sweeper now mid-ice instead of two. The game has been limited to six ends, no more eight-enders for now. Masks are worn during the game, except when a curler is throwing a rock.
“But many are comfortable with the mask on for that too,” Casselman added.
At every step of the way, is cleaning. A lot of cleaning.
COVID-19 committee member Sandra Bonyun explained that all the touch-points, from the stones to the scoreboard, handles, chairs, and other equipment are cleaned after each game, and logged. Entrance to the facility is also logged in case of a worst-case scenario that contact tracing is required.
Curling is a social sport and after a game, teams at their own tables can still enjoy a beverage before departing, but the kitchen is closed until further notice and extended socializing is discouraged.
More options like coffee and snacks after a game may be allowed, depending on what restrictions are in place in the region at the time. Currently the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region is at the Yellow-Protect level so that is not possible.
Some of the programs offered by the MCC are not running so far this season including the Little Rocks youth curling.
“It’s a little more difficult for them to be socially distant,” Casselman said. “We will have to see in January whether or not it’s going to work, and if not then it would be off for the year. It’s unfortunate because we know the kids really enjoy that activity.”
The club did move forward with its ‘Learn to Curl’ program this fall and has nine people signed up for it.
Bringing the sport back and having a winter activity this year was important to all the members of the committee.
“We surveyed the membership to see how many wanted to come back and the response rate was awesome,” Bonyun said. “People wanted to have some normalcy back in their lives.”
“People are getting tired,” added Casselman. “It’s been a long time that we’ve been home a lot, A lot of our senior people look forward to the curling season. We just felt for the overall wellbeing, both physical and mental that we try our best to get this up and running.”
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader