Rising COVID cases could derail planned restart of youth programming

·2 min read

ST. MARY’S – As the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise across the province, the Municipality of the District of Saint Mary’s is keeping a wary watch on the virus’s advance before deciding on whether to resume recreational programming for youth after the holidays.

Council had set a tentative reopening – after halting learn to figure skate, free skates, house league hockey, learn to skate and learning to master healthy meals classes for young people on Dec. 16 – of January 5. That may be further delayed, depending on the Covid case load in the new year.

St. Mary’s Active Living Coordinator Mallory Fraser expressed serious reservations at council last month about allowing youth – whose comparative low vaccination rates make them more vulnerable to the highly transmissible Omicron strain – to mix with adults in regular recreational programs offered by the municipality.

“We don’t want one of our recreation programs to become a spreading event,” she said. “We have youth who are in different grades and who are currently not allowed to mix with their peers at school. Taking them and putting them in environments where they could essentially be unmasked at, for example, a cooking program when they’re eating is, in my opinion, taking an unnecessary risk. The numbers [of infections] are not dropping and we have to be proactive instead of reactive in these situations.”

Going into the holiday season, Nova Scotia was reporting hundreds of new Covid cases a day, and rising. Although the largely rural Eastern Zone of the province – which includes Guysborough and Antigonish counties, as well as Cape Breton – was experiencing far fewer infections than the Halifax-dominated Central Zone, public resources available to fight the spread were stretched everywhere. In mid-December, St. Mary’s municipal office announced that it had run out of rapid testing kits.

“I don’t have a problem leaving the adult recreational programs open but I'd say that the risk now is with the children who are not all vaccinated,” Warden Greg Wier said at council. “The best thing that we can do now is to protect them.”

Council agreed to monitor the situation through the holiday season and base their decision on when to reopen youth recreation programs on conditions at the time.

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal

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