Mass vaccine clinics in North Simcoe arenas could shorten but won’t disappear

·4 min read

Vaccine clinics at two North Simcoe arenas will continue to help the public for as long as they’re needed, assured the operations manager for the NSSRC.

As the province entered step 3 of its reopening plan Friday, many businesses are anticipating the return of public engagement. For Canadians and for those in our area in particular, that means the return of ice rinks.

Both the Penetanguishene Memorial Community Centre (PMCC) and the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre (NSSRC) have been utilized as mass vaccination sites in agreement with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) since spring of this year.

While vaccination rates continue to climb among the population for first and second doses, the province of Ontario has chosen to advance to Step 3 of its Roadmap to Reopen, to accommodate for a greater number of indoor activities.

Fewer numbers of people are expected to require the space needed to fill arena floors during the months ahead, which the report will address with Penetanguishene council.

According to the report, an exit clause exists in the town’s agreement with the SMDHU, which is slated to continue until October 31, that would allow for an early termination provided 60-days notice is given beforehand. The SMDHU requested that municipalities continue mass vaccination clinics as per normal until the end of August while they continually re-evaluate the pandemic.

Dave Bressette, operations manager for the NSSRC, understands the necessity of the mass vaccination clinics and their current priority within the community.

“They’re not leaving,” said Bressette in a conversation with MidlandToday. “They’re still here until they feel they don’t need it anymore, and in the talks we’ve had with them (SMDHU) -- and there’s nothing set in stone -- is that when they reach the point where they think they don’t need that arena floor anymore, we’ll look at moving them to another room in the building.”

Midland hosts two arena floors in the NSSRC, and depending on the guidelines set by the province and the SMDHU in the next few days, plans to start up activities in other parts of the facility are already underway for the end of this month. While the vaccination clinic continues on one arena floor, an ice surface on the other is tentatively slated to be available for July 26 along with facility gym rentals.

“We’re still waiting on final regulations for what we can and can’t do,” stated Bressette, citing implementation of Step 3 as the deciding factor. “We have a meeting with the SMDHU on Friday and then we’ll know the specifics.”

James Landriault is the president of the Penetang Kings junior ‘C’ hockey team. The last games the Kings played were in an abbreviated 2020/2021 season before the pandemic ceased their activity.

“I’m fully vaccinated,” Landriault spoke in empathy to MidlandToday. “I understand the need for the vaccine clinics, and I get that the arena floors are a great way to do a mass clinic area. I wish there was a way we could do both (in Penetanguishene).

“I’m hoping that as the (vaccination) numbers increase, we find ways that we don’t need such a large clinic and we can get the kids back in the rinks where I think they belong.”

Reasoning toward the mental and physical health of his players and for kids in general, Landriault believes that opening up sporting activities “would be the biggest step back to normalcy that they’re going to have in a long time.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Bressette, who stated that ice time is incredibly important “to me, to the people who are renting and coming back, and for the kids who have missed out on a sense of normalcy and in doing the things they love for so long.”

Anticipation is heightened from the public’s positive response toward the NSSRC reopening. Despite clinics and camps having been cancelled, such as the annual summer hockey camp, Bressette announced that private ice rentals are 75% pre-booked for the upcoming season.

Tay and Tiny townships each have four outdoor rinks with Tay spokeswoman Elizabeth Smith noting private rentals must follow up-to-date SMDHU protocols and regulations upon agreement of use for the Tay facilities.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca

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