The City of Williams Lake has clarified its mandatory mask policy for visitors attending the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex arenas Friday through Sunday.
The procedure change, originally issued Oct. 13 and applying only when visiting teams were on the arena ice schedule, was implemented as a COVID-19 precaution to ensure the safety of all visitors, players and staff, as the hockey season is ramping out and more games are on the schedule, including out-of-town teams travelling to Williams Lake for games, the City said in a release.
A revised policy was sent out on Oct. 15 making it mandatory all visitors, players, coaches and volunteers entering the arena from Friday through Sunday will be required to wear a mask correctly at all times.
During scheduled practices or games, all players, coaches and staff actively participating in the sport or event are allowed to remove their mask for the duration of their sport or event.
Concerns surrounding three scheduled exhibition games in Williams Lake this weekend involving the Prince George-based Northern Capitals and the Fraser Valley Rush of the BC Female Major Midget AAA League have prompted questions surrounding community safety after the Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver was shut down indefinitely due to a COVID-19 exposure at its facility.
Keegan Goodrich, vice president of communications and events with BC Hockey, said all viaSport BC safety guidelines are being followed, as both the Northern Capitals and Fraser Valley Rush are within the same four-team cohort.
“Facilities work within the WorkSafe guidelines and their local health authority to administer protocols for the safety of all their user groups,” Goodrich said. “Because facilities vary across the province, a specific plan is set forth by each facility. All BC Hockey members and user groups would follow the protocols outlined by each facility.”
The Northern Capitals, meanwhile, are considered a zone team, which includes Williams Lake in their draw zone.
“The zone teams try to schedule games across their region so players can play in their hometown,” Goodrich said.
Currently, four Williams Lake girls play for the Northern Capitals.
Ian James, the City of Williams Lake’s director of community services, said concerns about the visiting teams were taken seriously and into consideration.
“We want to protect our community as best as we can,” James said. “But during these times of COVID we also have a global responsibility to work together as communities. We didn’t take the decision lightly to allow these groups to come in.”
At the time the game was scheduled, three of five arena facilities in Prince George were closed due to financial restrictions.
“There are a lot of youth who are devastated and not allowed to participate in sporting activities, including learn to skate programs and other things like that, and I think it’s still important to be able to help out our neighbours if we can,” James said.
James also stressed all viaSport guidelines will be adhered to by both visiting teams.
“I don’t disagree with any of the concerns but we did take all of the safety factors into account and we feel we are being consistent with viaSport guidelines,” he said. “We want to be a good neighbour.”