AYR Motor Centre set to implement tough COVID policy

Starting at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, Sept. 22, anybody planning to enter the AYR Motor Centre in Woodstock won’t get beyond the front doors without proof they had both shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, anyone working for the AYR Motor Centre, or anywhere with the town of Woodstock, must be fully vaccinated or must regularly take a COVID test and wear a mask at all times on the job.

At the Tuesday, Sept. 21, council in committee meeting, council members heard in detail the town’s steps to adhere to stringent new COVID regulation the province imposed to begin at midnight that night.

The list of new provincially imposed rules includes requiring everyone, aged 12 and older, looking to an indoor non-essential public space, such as the AYR Motors Centre, to show proof they are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. The enhanced regulations also mandate the wearing of masks inside any public building, regardless of vaccination status.

At Tuesday’s committee meeting, Kelly Foster Hallett, director of recreation and AYR Motor Centre facility manager, said staff already prepared for the new rules.

On Monday and Tuesday, she explained, staff hosted disclosure sessions to allow patrons of the facility to show proof of vaccinations and ID in advance to add their name to a list AYR Motor Centre will keep on record.

In the future, they will need only to show their ID, and the staff member at the door can easily search for their name on the list.

Matt Phinney, handling the disclosure desk Tuesday evening, said the sessions were going well. While he didn’t have an exact number of how many people disclosed their information, Phinney said it was in the hundreds.

Foster Hallett said facility staff are taking on the disclosure efforts to remove the pressure from sports and other organizations that use the facility regularly.

She said the goal is to create a “quick pass” system to limit a slowdown at the AYR Motor Centre front entrance, which will be the only access to the building while the COVID regulations are in place.

She said the first exhibition hockey game takes place Saturday night, so they’re working with staff to ensure a “smooth transition.”

Foster Hallett said they are still working on a plan to deal with visiting teams.

“We’ll do our best to make that seamless,” she said. “I’m only hoping the community realizes we’re doing our best, and these are regulations that were presented to us to be in compliance with by the province.”

Foster Hallett noted the vaccination requirements don’t affect children under 12. She said one area of confusion surrounds children who are turning 12.

She said provincial officials told her Public Health is working on a policy and would advise her shortly.

Following the Woodstock meeting, a school official informed the River Valley Sun that the province notified schools of the policy to cover the 12-year-old situation.

“Students born between July 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2009, who have one vaccination only, and have their second vaccination scheduled before Oct. 31 are eligible to participate in extracurricular activities while awaiting their second vaccine. There will be no grace period past Oct. 31.”

The policy appeared directed at students. The River Valley Sun could not confirm if it included students involved in minor sports programs.

The parent of a Pee Wee hockey player told the River Valley Sun earlier Tuesday that parents fear children may miss a long stretch of hockey because they just turned 12 and received only their first COVID-19 vaccination.

Foster Hallett said the AYR Motor Centre would also enforce the mask mandate, which goes into effect with the vaccine requirements.

Masks are mandatory for all patrons and all ages when in public spaces and common areas, including room rentals, dressing rooms, arena seating area, fitness locker rooms, pool spectator area, deck and mezzanine and locker rooms, field house court perimeter, McCain Walking Track, Carter Asbell viewing area, washrooms, lobby, stairwell and elevator.

To open Tuesday’s committee meeting, Mayor Art Slipp addressed the new COVID regulations, noting Public Health and the province introduced strict measures to deal with a “serious” situation. He said the steps are needed to deal with the rising number of infections and hospitalizations.

Following Foster Hallett’s report, Mayor Art Slipp again addressed the new COVID rules.

“I asked the public to be particularly sensitive during this period of transition,” he said. “We’re in a very, very difficult phase.”

He said the council and staff want to continue providing people access to town facilities but want to ensure patrons are aware, accept and support these changes.

“If they do have an issue, please be considerate and compassionate towards our staff,” Slipp said. “They’re just doing their jobs, and we want to make sure we have a minimum of confrontation.”

During the committee meeting, Andrew Garnett, director of development and planning, reviewed COVID policy requirements placed on all town employees.

He said employees who are double-vaccinated would not face additional restrictions other than following mask mandates.

Employees who are not vaccinated, and can’t provide proof of a medical exemption, will have to complete two rapid tests weekly, three days apart. If one of their tests proves positive, Garnett said, the employee will be required to immediately arrange with the province for further testing and use their sick time until the provincial test comes back negative.

While the testing is applied on an “honour” system, Garnett said, town management takes the issue seriously. A failure by an employee to meet the testing and masking regulations could lead to suspension or dismissal.

While at work, he said, the unvaccinated employee must wear a mask at all times.

Garnett said council members, contractors working in town facilities and volunteers must comply with town COVID-19 regulations to continue working.

He said the town did not develop its regulations on its own but adopted plans from other communities, noting most municipalities operate under similar rules.

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