Mayor Brian Bowman is asking for patience from Winnipeg’s citizens as the city rushes to reopen some of its services, including playgrounds and golf courses, after learning the details of the province’s reopening plan only when it was released Wedneday morning.
The Manitoba government’s multi-phase plan allows the reopening of some businesses and services closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Phase 1 of that plan comes into effect on Monday.
Since the release of the province’s reopening plan, city staffers have been reviewing the strategy to determine how they can restart some services by Monday, and possibly bring some laid-off workers back, Bowman said at a Thursday news conference.
“We’re considering how to implement this rapid reopening under very short timeframes, while weighing the health and safety of staff and our residents,” he said. “There is much more to reopening than simply reversing measures that we’ve put into place.
“With May 4 only a few days away, there will be some parts that we will be able to operationalize in time, and some that we won’t.”
The province’s plan says playgrounds and outdoor recreational facilities are allowed to reopen as of Monday.
But many of those spaces are municipally owned, so it’s up to local governments to green-light reopening things like athletic fields, skate parks or playgrounds.
“The organizational recovery operations are not just a simple reversal of steps taken during the response phase [of the pandemic],” Jay Shaw, the city’s assistant chief of emergency management, said at Thursday’s briefing.
“Resumption of a closed program, process or work function needs to be assessed and planned out.”
However, several City of Winnipeg services and businesses will reopen Monday, Shaw said, including:
- Kildonan Park, Crescent Drive and Harbour View golf courses. Tee-times at the city-operated courses can be booked starting this Friday. The opening of Windsor Park golf course is delayed due to high water levels on the Seine River.
- City-owned playgrounds and picnic shelters. Closed signs are still on the play structures right now, Shaw said, but those will be taken down.
- Skate parks, athletic fields, and tennis and basketball courts. Shaw noted that contact sports are still barred under the province’s plan, and that gatherings still cannot exceed 10 people.
Pools, arenas and libraries are remaining closed until further notice, said Shaw.
The city is looking at how to reopen libraries, Bowman said.
While libraries and museums are allowed to reopen Monday, the province’s plan says “high-touch displays” must remain closed for now.
“We’re talking magazines, books — a library is intended to be high-touch,” said Bowman.
“We want people to touch the books, we want them to take them home, we want them to read them, we want them to share them with friends and family. We want them to return for others to touch.”
Rush for patio applications expected
Among other easing of restrictions, Phase 1 of the provincial plan allows restaurants and bars to reopen their patio spaces, with some restrictions. Indoor dining rooms must remain closed for now.
Bowman expects that will mean a spike in applications for temporary patio spaces, and says a process is being developed to handle that influx.
“Under normal circumstances, the process of creating new patios can take upward of many weeks,” he said.
Shaw said more information about the new application process will be available online Friday, and that city staffers will be working over the weekend to process applications.
Temporary patios will be allowed until May 31, when the city will re-evaluate.
Once Phase 2 of the province’s plan begins — which will not happen earlier than June 1 — the temporary patios will no longer be allowed, the city says, and applications will have to made for permanent patio space.
Transit continues reduced service
Winnipeg Transit will continue with its plan to move to reduced service — what it described as an “enhanced Saturday sechedule” — on weekdays as of Monday.
“We’re reducing the service because we can’t really have empty buses driving around the city,” Shaw said.
However, passenger levels will be monitored, he said, and if physical distancing cannot be enforced, the city will put more buses on the road.
After the first month of the pandemic in Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg had lost roughly $12 million in revenue. Half of those losses came from transit.
“We will be monitoring [demand for transit] service, and if there’s a need to increase the service we’ll do that,” said Shaw.
Laid-off workers may be rehired
The City of Winnipeg laid off 674 non-permanent staff earlier this month in an attempt to cut operating losses.
On Thursday, Shaw said there are plans being reviewed to eventually bring those workers back.
“We need to be able to assess in Phase 1 [of the reopening] how we move to Phase 2,” he said.
“There are some processes that we want to take a look at and some services that we may be able to restart, but we’re not ready to have any of those announcements yet.”
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