COVID hot zone residents a concern as Lincoln bans outsiders from town ice facilities

Lincoln Blades Lincoln has shutdown ice facility rentals to communities outside the Niagara Region

People from outside Niagara Region seeking ice time at Lincoln town rinks are not welcome, said the town’s manager.

“We have decided that, until further notice, staff will only accept ice rentals from groups within the Niagara Region Public Health jurisdiction,” said Mike Kirkopoulos, Lincoln’s Chief Administrative Officer.

The decision came after Kirkopoulos and his staff consulted with their legal advisors, Niagara Region health officials, other CAOs in Niagara communities, and Lincoln’s mayor Sandra Easton and town councillors. Heads of town departments were also consulted.

“Staff have received increased inquiries for ice usage from interested parties located outside of the Niagara Region. While this is not uncommon, during this time of the year, the volume of inquiries for this time of year has increased,” said Kirkopoulos.

Niagara Region is in the Orange-Restrict tier of the province’s framework, a lower tier than communities such as Hamilton, Halton, Durham, Waterloo, and York which are in the Red-Control tier. Toronto and Peel Region are in lockdown because of significantly higher COVID-19 cases. Today’s daily new case report is 1478 across Ontario with 33 new cases in Niagara Region.

Concerns from Lincoln residents

In recent days, some Lincoln residents had expressed concerns, some through their town councillors, that non-Niagara residents may book town ice facilities and potentially and unknowingly bring with them the coronavirus. The fear is that COVID-19 would be spread by outsiders in the community. Lincoln’s current active case count is nine today and has been low throughout the pandemic.

The Province’s COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open and the associated regulation O. Reg. 364/20 do not specifically address the use of recreational facilities by people from different areas of the province. 

Lincoln checked with Niagara Region Public Health and received the following recommendations:

  • The Ontario government recommends people from the hot zones do not move between regions.  NRPH supports this.
  • NRPH supports any municipality implementing a policy to limit the access to facilities to residents of the Niagara Region only.
  • NRPH itself will not however be issuing an order, these are recommendations only at this time, and discretion is being left to municipalities to decide how they will proceed.

Last week, the Ontario Hockey Federation provided guidance to its member associations,  that no travel outside of their respective public health unit can occur during any level of the Provincial Framework. 

“In Lincoln, this would apply to our minor hockey organizations, but staff now believe it is a prudent and appropriate approach to apply this principle broadly across all user groups regardless of governing body or organization in an effort to ensure that we remain vigilant as a community,” said Kirkopoulos.  

He said that Lincoln public spaces and amenities continue to be places that “we invite the broader community and our residents to use, and to do so, in a safe manner.”  

“We look forward to the time that we can safely and more broadly allow this use to extend to those beyond our Niagara borders once again,” he advised.

Grimsby would turn red zone ice renters away

In Grimsby, town manager Harry Schlange said the two rinks at the town’s Peach King Centre have few vacancies and high use by locals. The town is accommodating local bookings first and so there is little opportunity for anyone in red zones to secure ice time. In the event someone called from one of those areas, he said they would be turned away.

Other towns and cities in the Niagara Region are considering similar bans.